Return Ticket, the final novel in Jon Doust’s semi-autobiographical trilogy, is an unexpectedly satisfying read.
Unexpected, because there was no certainty that there would be any kind of homecoming at all for the Jack Muir whose wild exploits as a troubled young man we followed through its predecessor To The Highlands. Not surprisingly, that middle novel was a harrowing and at times downright disturbing read.
It’s a very different voice we encounter in Return Ticket. The wild colonial boy is still adventuring in far-flung places, but it’s a much enlarged world he now inhabits. There’s a great deal happening in the world, and the novel traverses much of that broad canvas, and a deal of the history that underpins it.
Working on a kibbutz in Israel was a rite of passage for social and political idealists in the early 1970s, and the search for meaning in personal relationships in the dawning era of free love was no less intense.
Resolution, redemption and peacemaking are powerful imperatives in our lives. Later, much later, a beach, an early morning swim crew, and the small beach-side cafe where Jack and his friends congregate briefly before heading out to their different lives each day become the setting wherein those processes are mediated for Jack.
We are introduced to the beach-side town, Kincannup, early. Clever juxtaposition of other times and places with Kincannup 2018 as the anchor to which we are constantly returned, reminds us that although ‘making sense of it all’ is an iterative process that is never complete, on balance it is nonetheless inexorably progressive. And there’s something deeply reassuring and satisfying about that.