A legacy from her grandmother sends Phillipa Snip Freeman on a personal odyssey through the Australian Outback in search of her long-lost father, and answers to her unexplained questions about her troubled childhood.
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When we first encounter Snip Freeman--artist, drifter, and zealously independent protagonist of Nikki Gemmell's second novel, Alice Springs--she has just received $30,000 from her deceased grandmother, along with a cryptic imperative: "Hunt him down." The him is Snip's wayward father, Bud; the hunt, as it turns out, becomes the layered heart of the book, as Snip confronts not only Bud and his 20-year estrangement from the family, but also the wary, gypsy nature he long ago bequeathed her. Set largely in the dusty vastness of the Australian desert, Alice Springs is a quirky hodgepodge of tales--part love story, part family drama, even part thriller--that Gemmell strives gamely to corral.
As Snip sets out to track down her father, she inadvertently becomes ensnared herself: her codriver, Dave, located through a newspaper ad, makes her more aware than ever of her increasingly isolating rootlessness. When she finally locates Bud, and their own journey into the desert leaves them with a punctured gas tank and dwindling supplies, Snip learns how her parents' recklessness shaped her: "It runs in the family, the not stopping to think things through, the running." Dispirited by Bud's example of a solitary life, Snip contemplates forging some sort of relationship with Dave.
Gemmell's prose is clipped and lively, and her novel is punctuated with stark, lovely descriptions. Yet she insists so adamantly on Snip's desperado restlessness, it begins to seem dubious. The lengthy section that finds Bud and Snip stranded together occasionally feels contrived, as well, a too-convenient interlude of reunion and discovery. Alice Springs is most successful when it sticks to exploring the ambiguities of love, the hazy places where affection diverges from self-absorption. --Ben GutersonFrom the Publisher:
Praise for Alice Springs: "Gemmell tells her story in a jazzy, nonlinear, chopped-to-fragments series of short chapters, a narrative style as compelling and exotic as the landscape itself." --Baltimore Sun
"Snip Freeman is a woman's woman -- independent, resilient and brimming with searing sexuality. . . . Gemmell deftly uses short scenes that border on narrative poetry to convey everything from the uneasy coexistence between the aborigines and white outsiders to Snip's battle between selfishness and romantic happiness. Gemmell's Aussie swagger, her inventive, compound adjectives -- piss-weak, hurt-cold, childhood-cheap, fifties-neat, owl-awake -- and her mastery of an epic, Odyssean style ensure that hers is one of the few truly original voices to emerge in a long time." --Time Out New York
"A fierce, white-hot read." --Booklist
"At its strongest moments Alice Springs offers a whittled down portrait of external and internal landscapes under pressure . . . passages that show Snip's need to balance defiance and accommodation as she journeys through a fractured and difficult world." --The New York Times Book Review
"Written in short spurts of energetic, spare, and telegraphic prose . . . Gemmell's punchy, unadorned style is wonderfully effective. . . . The parallel threads of Snip's love for her father and her lover are skillfully woven and gather emotional resonance. The result is a tactile mixture of a rugged adventure story and a classic search for identity in an unforgiving landscape." --Publishers Weekly
"Gemmell tells a compelling story, beautifully laced with a mix of Aboriginal and European culture. She provides a rhythmic see-saw from desert to water, from old to new. . . A well-told tale. Recommended." --Library Journal
"The brittle, complicated Snip is a revelation and truly engrossing." --Kirkus Reviews
"Gemmell's grasp of character is astute, and her themes expansive. She examines the complexities of an isolated woman by showing what made her turn out this way. . . . There is a strong sense of place throughout, and Gemmell manipulates this common Australian theme skillfully. . . . In the middle of the novel, Snip and her dad are trapped in the desert in a broken down van, with no food or water: waiting to die, hoping to be rescued. . . . The whole episode is superbly executed: suspense, psychodrama, anger, tenderness and terror mingle with the relentless sense of a vast, overpowering landscape." --Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Gemmell has written a powerful novel that does not flinch from strong emotion or description to provide a luminous insight into the fringes of Australian society and the long, dark night of the soul." --The Times
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Book Description Penguin Books, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P11014028642X
Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 014028642X New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1807270