At his nadir, Sullivan Moss stuffs up his own suicide attempt and is forced to reflect on his unreliable, selfish, underachieving ways. He strikes on the idea of doing something of value by donating a kidney. The ensuing story tells of Sullivan’s unintentional self-improvement and subsequent downfall leading up to the surgery. The novel is peppered with a cast of memorable and diverse characters who cross paths with Sullivan. Many of them are also struggling to find meaning and fulfilment, and to understand what it means to be a good person. Most notably, there’s radio producer and single parent Natalie, Colombian asbestos remover Jose Luis, banker with a rocky marriage Tim, Croatian neighbour Gordana and famous actor Rory Wallace. Set in contemporary Sydney, the rollicking plot contains intricate twists, lustful entanglements and emotion-charged drama. This is the first adult novel from Debra Oswald, co-creator of television’s Offspring. It’s humorous but there’s plenty of empathy for her characters, and an exploration of the power of relationships. This is high-quality popular fiction that intelligently examines the age-old quest for a meaningful life. While it has more facets than The Rosie Project, expect a similarly broad audience. It’s recommended for all types of readers seeking entertaining, thoughtful drama.
Joanne Shiells is an editor and former retail book buyer. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in January 2014. View more pre-publication reviews here.