She's an Aussie journalist/author/mother who speaks with such poise and intelligence in interviews, and who uses the same poise and intelligence in her writing. In I Came To Say Goodbye, her second novel, she tells the story of Med Atley, whose wife rides the second wave of feminism right out of their small country town in the '70s, leaving him to raise three kids (including one toddler) on his own. It's the fate of the abandoned toddler, in particular, that the book deals with, revealing how mental illness and grief can tear a family apart.
The story is told primarily from Med's perspective, as he writes a letter to a judge explaining his youngest child's background, in an attempt to persuade him about a matter concerning his family (exactly what, we don't know for a long time). Initially I found this narrative style a bit contrived, doubting whether people actually write letters to judges, let alone one of this length. But that doubt was easy to push aside as I got caught up in Med's voice and Med's story. He's the kind of bloke we all know; an old-school Aussie, rough around the edges, with his beer belly and Ned Kelly beard belying the soft soul and heart of gold dwelling within. He feels very real, and I was completely swept along with all of his emotions... especially his heartbreak. I might not have much in common with an old guy like Med, but oh, how I felt for him. He always tried his best, tried oh-so-hard, and wanted nothing more than to see the kids he loved so dearly, happy. To witness his disappointment time and again was like a punch in the gut.
I completely fell in love with Med's voice, but a smaller section of the book is told from the perspective of one of Med's daughters, Kat, and it's strange that her voice is far less authentic, considering Overington herself would seem to have more in common with a 30-something professional woman than a battler like Med. The main problem for me was Kat's seeming lack of awareness of certain legal proceedings, considering that she's supposed to be a high-powered lawyer. But, like the letter format, this is only a small gripe, far outshone by the suspenseful, emotional and compelling plot, and the beautiful, simple language. Overall, I Came To Say Goodbye is a wonderful Australian story that explores important issues, and breaks your heart at the same time it reveals the strength and power of parental love.
|Saskia Burmeister as Med's favourite child, Donna-Faye (a.k.a. Fat)|
|Eric Bana, circa his Chopper scumbag look, as Fat's deadshit boyfriend, Paul Haines|
|Cate Blanchett as Med's eldest daughter, Kat|
|Michael Sheen as Kat's caring British husband, David|
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Random House Australia
Get It: Booktopia
Here's an interesting video of Overington discussing some of the issues raised in the book.