Charlie Leman honoured me with a chat at the launch of the second in the Jack Muir trilogy, To the Highlands. I asked him to attend the launch because he had spent time in Papua New Guinea. He spoke well of that book and now he has honoured this one.
I’ve not been to Africa, Israel or Iran so unlike Boy on a Wire and To the Highlands, Return Ticket did not immediately reveal parallels to my own life.
However, as Jack Muir’s journeys unfolded, I was drawn into his subconscious quest for truth, through his search and longing for love, community and family. To seek a true sense of belonging is such powerful and universal human trait and Jack generously allows to us adventure there with him.
I loved Jack’s passion for dishwashing. For him was not a domestic chore, more a spiritual experience. I reveled in his detailed descriptions of the precision, discipline, commitment and manic energy with which he embraced this task. Dishwashing opened doors for Jack. At the sink he displayed his authentic self and wherever he was in action he attracted respect, friendship and love, including that of lifelong partner!
I loved Jack’s rituals with coffee and the intimacy and connections that opened to his and others lives. Whether he was meticulously preparing his beloved bots for guests, being beckoned to the inner sanctum of an elderly strangers abode, or at home in Kincannup at the Whalers Cafe philosophising with the proprietor after his morning Southern Ocean swim.
I loved his Jack’s connection to language, spiritual explorations through Hess’s Siddhartha, discovery of the psyche with Carl Jung and emotional journeys of love to the lyrics of Leonard Cohen.
I felt the depth of Jack’s yearning and passion for Neeza, the instant attraction of this femme fatale with all the associated confusion and complexity. The continuous presence of a former lover creating a ménage et trio like scenario, her disapproving parents and the tragedy and despair of Jack and Neeva’s migration to Australia.
I loved Jack’s dysfunctional but undeniable relationship with his family and the redemption experienced by many of them as the finale drew near. Of father Andrew inviting him to share his kibbutz experience with the local Rotary Club then confiding later that it gave them something to think about. His pained mother’s despairing of her failure in that role, only to be reminded by Jack of the amazing scones she cooked and all the other little things she did that helped form the wondrous nurturing in her own tortured way.
I loved Jack’s awareness of history and his great uncles who fought someone else’s war on the land he’d traveled to explore.
And I loved Jack’s near full circle final return to reside in a small country town, not Genoralup but not so dissimilar Kincannup. There with his kibbutz dishwashing bride, his awareness of the world beyond and his acceptance home and family for all their faults, Jack can finally belong.
Thanks for the read