Book review: The Lost Man

25 Sep 2019 / 10:56 H.

THIS book by British-born, Australian writer Jane Harper is an amazing story about a family searching for comfort and closure when one of their own is found dead in the harsh and remote Australian Outback.

Brothers Nathan, Cameron and Bub Bright have all grown up on Burley Downs Station, their parent’s ranch in central Queensland, where the temperatures stay at inhuman levels under a cloudless sky.

The story opens with Nathan, the eldest son, racing through the desert to meet his estranged family after brother Cameron, who had gone out on a routine job on the property, had not returned for hours.

It turns out that for some unknown reason, Cameron had strayed miles from his fully-operational vehicle that was stocked full of water and food.

He was found dead from dehydration, while hugging the legendary headstone of an unknown stockman.

Adding to the pain of Cameron’s death is the question of what had caused him to walk out into the unforgiving heat and die such a sad and lonely death.

Since it’s just days before Christmas when Cameron’s body is found, the tragedy and holiday force Nathan to stay at the family home, which puts a great stress on him.

The brothers’ mother still lives at the family ranch along with Cameron’s widow, their two girls, a long-time employee, and two backpacker employees.

Meanwhile, Nathan has been living alone on his own farm nearby. He is divorced, but is currently sharing his home with his teenage son, Xander, who’s visiting for the holidays, adding some additional strain to the situation.

While Nathan has been somewhat living in emotional and physical isolation, his late brother Cameron was well-liked in the community.

This makes Nathan a fascinating choice as the narrator in the novel.

As questions about Cameron’s death mount, certain facts come to light, and interesting facets of the family history are revealed.

Harper’s writing is so realistic that it makes you feel the suffocation of the dry heat, of social ostracism, and of the family’s dark secrets.

The Lost Man is a slow burn and offers you a surprise at the end as the Bright family finds closure to Cameron’s death.

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