That eye, the sky by Tim Winton


This short Tim Winton book is set in the early 80s in the far outskirts of Perth.  A hippie couple lived the simple life, having decamped there to live among the trees.  By the time the novel opens, the couple have an angry teenage girl and a boy around 12, and the trees have almost all been taken for lumber.  Then things really start to go wrong.

The story is told through the eyes of Ort (short for Morton), the boy.  His father has an accident that leaves him an invalid and Ort and his mother can barely drag the father down the hall for his daily bath.  A  stranger appears, strange as in unknown to them and just strange.  Henry Warburton says he is there to help, and he begins to take care of the father and takes on other chores for the family.  Eventually Henry begins to proselytize the family, and Ort recounts the Henry's telling of the Bible which is apparently completely unknown to Ort.  Ort and his mother, unlike the angry sister, do find this story appealing, and the two have communion after meals most days, using bread and sherry.  They try church once, but the preacher yelling a sermon based on Revelations sends them running.  And the story goes on in this vein.

The language is appealing; my favorite new word this time was chook which means chicken.  Ort had a beloved chicken named Errol.  The names of the characters was terrific:  the angry daughter is Tegwyn and Ort's obese buddy is Fat Cherry. 

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