Lucinda’s Whirlwind (May 2012) is delightful. It’s warm and amusing, thoughtful and enlightening, and takes us from Brisbane shopping centres to Far North Queensland aboriginal communities to corn fields in the USA.
I picked up Lucinda’s Whirlwind because of the comparison with Liane Moriarty and, yes, the Australian family content, falling in love the quirky characters and a wholly satisfying ending are reminiscent of Liane’s books.
Lucinda’s Whirlwind is a very entertaining story about two grown sisters coping with the death of their mother. One sister, Jayne, is a self-sacrificing wife and mum with lots of friends; the other sister, Lucinda, is a cold fish who works in a museum and has a Mason and Pearson hairbrush but who hasn’t a friend in the world. The emotionally un-involved father plays a suitably fringe role with the odd visit to his nursing home.
The cast of characters includes a taking-for-granted husband, a runaway Dachshund, a homeless teenage boy who moves in, a single dad with an adorable Downs Syndrome child, a long-lost American friend, a South American housekeeper who addresses everyone only in Spanish, sly grog-running boys in an aboriginal community, and a multi-national assortment on a bus tour through the US.
Uncharacteristically, and to the great alarm of all, Jayne, the warm, cuddly sister ups and leaves for America to investigate some unresolved issues from their mother’s past. Jayne’s husband is missing at sea up north, and there’s no-one to look after the kids and the dog except for… you guessed it, the prickly sister Lucinda, who is thrown into a whirlwind of responsibility and domesticity – dirty laundry, Chicken Pox, calls to the school Principal, and, worst of all, having to join the Walking Train to St Barnaby’s primary school.
To make matters worse, museum exhibits in Lucinda’s care, namely a rare Eclectus Parrot and Dorothy’s red shoes – the originals from The Wizard of Oz movie, no less! – go missing! The Smithsonian will have her head on a platter!
Thankfully, the solution to these mysteries, and all the other conundrums in the story, come together skilfully, and beautifully, at the end.
I particularly enjoyed the scenes in the aboriginal community – considered and very well done.
Lucinda’s Whirlwind leaves you with the hopeful impression that lives can work out, grief can be worked through, love can be found, shoes should be red, and that we live is a pretty good place!
By Jenny Mann