You bring your children up to escape sorrow. You spend your best years trying to stop them witnessing it on television, in you, in your neighbours' faces. Then you realize, slowly, that there is no escape, that they must steer their own way through life's cruelties.
In The Children, Charlotte Wood one of Australian fiction's rising stars, delivers a short, sharp shock of a novel that takes us into the heart of a family as normal, and as broken, as any other. When their father is critically injured, foreign correspondent Mandy and her siblings return home, bringing with them the remnants and patterns of childhood. Mandy has lived away from the country for many years. Her head is filled with images of terror and war, and her homecoming to the quiet country town - not to mention her family and marriage - only heightens her disconnection from ordinary life. Cathy, her younger sister, has stayed in regular contact with her parents, trying also to keep tabs on their brother Stephen who, for reasons nobody understands, has held himself apart from the family for years.
In the intensive care unit the children sit, trapped between their bewildered mother and one another; between old wounds and forgiveness, struggling to connect with their emotions, their past and each other. But as they wait and watch over their father, there's someone else watching too: a young wardsman, Tony, who's been waiting for Mandy to come home. As he insinuates himself into the family, the pressure, and the threat, intensify and build to a climax of devastating force.