Friday, April 16, 2021

The Nowhere by Chris Gill

The Nowhere
by Chris Gill
Published June 4th 2019 by PRNTD Publishing

Two boys. Two farms. One deadly secret.

Every day’s the same on the farm. Seventeen-year-old Seb rides his quad bike alongside his dad and cattle dog, dreaming about a different life. A life that doesn’t require him to spend all day in the blistering sun. Where the nearest town isn’t a forty-minute drive away with a population of less than three hundred people. Where he can talk to someone who isn’t his little brother or short-tempered father.

So when new neighbours move into the derelict farm on the opposite side of the shrub, Seb hopes his luck is finally about to change. Could Jake, the enigmatic boy with a dangerous glint in his eye, be his ticket out of The Nowhere? And if so, how far are they both willing to go to escape?

Fast forward two decades and Seb’s working as a nurse back in Perth. With his dad living in his home, Seb is tormented by the demons that have followed him his entire adult life. He begins confiding in his caring colleague Sandra, who convinces him the only way he’ll be able to move forward is to exorcise his ghosts and seek closure.

But when Jake calls out the blue telling Seb he’s coming to visit, Seb has to decide whether he’s ready to face exactly what happened that summer. On the night that forever changed not only the lives of the two boys, but that of their entire families.

Youthful, brutal and ferociously fantastic, The Nowhere is a coming-of-age novel about aspiration and isolation, sexuality and sadness, love, loss, and how life changes. Despite his best efforts, Seb learns that secrets can’t be kept forever. The truth always comes out eventually.

You can’t keep it secret forever, the truth always comes out eventually.

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4 Stars

Writing a review for The Nowhere feels impossible. I don't think I can adequately express in words just how profound an experience I had reading it. Chris Gill captures the very essence of what it is to be young, to know something is different from what you're told is normal, and to be so wholly wrapped up in someone else. Those teenage years are hard, but even harder when you must live with the consequences of them forever. We are left wondering about what must have occurred as we follow Seb through various times in his life. We see him in his youth, as an adult seeking to break away from his father, and finally as he for the first time lets another into his life.

The Nowhere is a difficult book to read, both due to being non-chronological and due to the impossible weight Seb puts on himself. He frequently speaks terribly to himself, words of shame and sin and hatred that were so heavy on my heart. It is incredible how Gill captured both the external and internal homophobia, Seb is coming-of-age in a time and a place where he does not feel loved and does not know how to love himself. When he finally does find another he feels a bond to, Jake, it only makes him question further who he is and who Jake could be to him. His upbringing are apparent in how he carries himself well into adulthood, the words and experiences keeping him from truly accepting even himself.

I would call The Nowhere a coming-of-age New Adult novel, however it is filled with complexities, the topics Gill touches on are heavy. The characters and the relationships they share are fraught with emotional and physical abuse. It's a journey of familial relationships and friendships, intimacy, and loss. It's a powerful, heart wrenching story that I will revisit and that I highly recommend.

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