Between Us by Clare Atkins
Published by Black Inc. Books
Date: 29 January 2018
Between Us by Clare Atkins had a profound effect on me, I didn’t expect to be so moved by it and a piece of me changed by the time I turned the last page. The end caught me off guard, it was unexpected and it challenged my thinking, opinions, and knowledge. The book also left me heartbroken and sad, especially for the real life refugees whose lives in their new “home” is nothing like they expect, where they loose their identity and are reduced to being called a number.
Silence. He tries again. ‘Kin016? Is that you?’ He’s looking at me.
Clare Atkins tells us a story of about teenagers Ana and Jono, who connect despite their differences; and Jono’s Vietnamese father Kenny, whose mistrust and suspicion impacts the teenagers lives. Ana is an asylum seeker who lives in the detention centre that Kenny works at. Jono goes to the School where the detention centre send the children for their education, and from the first time he sees Ana he wants to know more about her. As their relationship grows, Kenny becomes more stressed and his relationship with Jono more strained.
Kenny – Frustration coils in my body, as Jonathan disappear into the house.
There are several story lines that take place in the book, two involve Kenny. His story line resonated with me, the pull he continually felt between his job and his personal life shaped him into a person that he was beginning to dislike. Despite the choices he makes and his internal conflict, he clearly just wanted Jono to have all that he didn’t which included having choices and not having to settle with the bitter taste of never being enough.
Jono – The new girl is staring at me.
Eyes, almost black,
up, down, then back.
The story of love between Ana and Jono tried to draw me in, however I knew early on that their lives would always have difficulty melding. Ana didn’t have the opportunity to just be free, she knew that and never seemed quite as invested in the relationship as Jono was. Ana didn’t know freedom as Jono did, she was Kin016 according to the detention centre and his father Kevin; this all she could see as her future, a imprisoned number.
Ana – Stark White
on the floor.
River of Farsi
and the repeated phrase:
‘No Nauru…please, no Nauru…’
Atkins descriptions of Ana’s life in the centre left me lost for words The grief her mother feels, her siblings knowing no other way of life, and Ana constantly living in fear of the unknown. Throughout the book, Atkins reflects on what brought Ana and her family to Australia, it is fair to say that it is no wonder she was guarded, and also made her fiercely protective of her family. Ana really wasn’t able to live the life of a teenager; at times she was carer of her siblings and mother, holding together her family during a time when it couldn’t hold itself together. In all this, her soul was slowly crushed. Jono, who was also dealing inwardly with things, felt hopeless and lost like Ana, but he was free.
I am keeping it real here, I cried for the last couple of chapters and I literally felt a little hollow. Between Us is not a book I am going to forget anytime soon. We cannot understand the fear that drives people to come to an unknown, where their quality of life is still compromised. To me it seems that their hope outweighs their fear.
Clare Atkins, thank you for writing this book and for giving me insight into a world in which I had previously little knowledge about. It is raw, compelling and challenging and for that I am grateful.
Thank you to Black Inc. Books for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book.