Penguin Random House Australia
, Mar 1, 2012
- 365 pages
Snip Freeman is a woman in search of her father. Not the physical presence of him - she knows where he lives, in the desert out of Alice Springs - but the truth behind his abandonment of her and her mother.
At the bequest of her grandmother, Snip sets out for the Centre to track him down. She is no stranger to this part of the country; she goes there regularly, drawn by the strange power of the land and by the strength of community of its native people, who provide her with a greater sense of family than her own ever has. Snip, thirty-something, has always been a loner and a wanderer. Afraid of intimacy, and preferring to direct all her energies to her painting, she moves on as soon as she feels herself growing attached to anyone. When she somehow lets herself fall in love with Dave, the guy who answers her ad for a co-driver to the Centre, she runs away from him too. With her father, Bud, Snip escapes into the desert, both of them fleeing imaginary demons. Their four-wheel-drive hits a rock and the fuel tank is punctured, and they're stranded for days on end without adequate food or water. Then Bud disappears altogether. Dave, too, is running - after Snip.
The lesson she has to learn is that she cannot run away from herself. Nor, she discovers, does she want to repeat her father's mistake and live only for herself. Cleave revolves around the themes of covering and discovering, revenge, the nature of affinity, and finding you place in the world. Like Shiver it is written with a high-voltage energy and is particularly strong on male/female relationships in the complex nineties. While not a sequel to Shiver, Cleave is the second in a trilogy of novels set in extreme locations, and its evocation of the desert, the use of the desert as a metaphor for human isolation, will resonate with readers everywhere.
Like Shiver, Cleave is a moving and very personal novel, and is bound to win Gemmell many more admirers.