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Blog Tour – Aussie Book Review: Season of Shadow and Light by Jenn J McLeod

“Sometime this season …

The secret keeper must tell.

The betrayed must trust.

The hurt must heal.

When it seems that everything Paige trusts is beginning to betray her, she leaves her husband at home and sets off on a road trip with her six-year-old daughter, Matilda, and Nana Alice in tow.

But stranded amid rising floodwaters on a detour to the tiny town of Coolabah Tree Gully, Paige discovers the greatest betrayal of all happened there twenty years earlier.

Someone knows that truth can wash away the darkest shadows, but . . . are some secrets best kept for the sake of others?”
I’ve been a fan of Jenn J McLeod now since her very first book in the Seasons series, House for all Seasons (my review here) which preceded Simmering Season (my review here) and I always get so excited when I hear that she’s got another novel coming out, hoping that I’m going to catch a glimpse of some of the characters I’ve met along the way.
Season of Shadow and Light certainly doesn’t disappoint and, whilst I didn’t quite get the glimpse that I was hoping for, the little town of Coolabah Tree Gully (as with Calingarry Crossing) shows that Jenn has a talent for creating vivid fictional worlds, with her characters being ones we can relate to as she ever so skilfully depicts the highs, lows and mostly complicated relationships between them as they juggle and deal with the lives that she has created for them.

For those of you who haven’t yet read any of Jenn’s novels, please be assured that there is no need to read these in order and they can quite easily be read as stand-alones!

Paige Turner’s life is a little bit weird at the moment. Suffering with the effects of a stroke which has left her with sensory deficiencies and partial numbness down her left side, depression after the loss of her second child, a marriage she’s fast losing her grip on, the effects of a brief encounter with a stranger at a shopping mall and the discovery of an old photograph, she decides to take Nana Alice and her six year old daughter, Matilda, on a road trip.
Only, the old photograph harvested from Nana Alice’s belongings, along with fate, seem to have other plans for them when their lack of directional focus finds them stopping in Coolabah Tree Gully. With inclement weather setting in and the creeks rising, there’s no way they’re getting out of there any time soon.
The townsfolk, although in Paige’s eyes, a little strange, welcome them with open arms and warm hospitality and, as she continues to contemplate her marriage and other deeply held desires, she begins to find a sense of peace, belonging and the hint of a better life for her and little Mati. She just can’t understand why Nana Alice, who has always only wanted the best for her, is so persistent about getting out of there so that she can mend her relationship with Robert.
Over the two weeks of their temporary tree change, Jenn slowly begins to unravel the biggest secret of all by offering us timely tidbits of information shared by her characters, thereby enabling us to begin putting the pieces of the puzzle together. But, when trouble comes to town, Paige and Alice will find themselves facing-off against the biggest lie of all and we, as the reader, can only hope that things will work out in their favour!
Two things that draw me into a novel are character and emotions and Jenn never disappoints me with hers. Weaving a tapestry of complex relationships, lies and deceit in her palette of summery colours, Jenn has lovingly imagined an array of characters whose narrations are vitally important in telling this story. Their emotions and secrets will pull at your heart-strings whilst their own hearts take a pummelling when that elephant in the room rises up to threaten everything they hold dear.
Paige, richly drawn with many facets, has to dig deep on this journey of self-discovery and I could so relate to her as she searched for that sense of belonging. Aiden injects a fantastic dose of quick-witted humour into the narrative and I found myself giggling at some of the things he said, such as “I’m thinking you might find your feet doing a Fred Flintstone if you don’t ease up on those imaginary brakes” and “That woman can round up a mob of beer-swilling boys faster than any kelpie I’ve seen working the yards at shearing time and make them move on command” whilst Alice annoyed me intensely with her self-centeredness in terms of her loyalties.
Whilst on the subject of characters, I’m not usually one for a plot with a young child in it because throughout my years of reading, I have come across authors who just don’t get the balance right, tending to “lose” their young characters when other more important plot strands gain momentum in their narratives. Jenn, however, should give lessons on how to incorporate child characters as Mati comes to life with her deft hand!
Touching on themes of depression, loss, identity, infidelity, alternative lifestyles, family dynamics, deceit, betrayal, family discord, secrets and lies and ultimately love, Jenn writes scenes that deliver an unforgettable emotional impact.
As always with Jenn’s novels, Season of Shadow and Light is tightly plotted and perfectly paced, abounding with twists that will lead you first in one direction but will soon have you changing focus as she skilfully ratchets up the intrigue and keeps you guessing right up until its cracker of an ending.
Beautifully written, poignant and seasoned with both shadow and light, this is a story, not only about dealing with the choices we’ve made along the way, the repercussions of lies kept and the manner in which they can affect the next generation but one of hope and second chances.
Do yourself a favour and “come home to the country”!
I wish to thank Simon & Schuster for providing me with a hard copy ARC and inviting me to take part in this fabulous blog tour.
Duffy the Writer is next in line on the Tour with her post going live on 29 April but if you’d like information on all the blogs taking part, you can find a schedule here.
About the Author
No stranger to embracing a second chance or trying something different, Jenn J McLeod took her first tentative steps towards a tree change in 2004, escaping Sydney’s corporate chaos to buy a small café in the seaside town of Sawtell.
For her, moving to the country was like coming home.
After ten years running a B&B on her NSW property, she now gets to write contemporary Australian fiction (life-affirming novels of small town life and the country roots that run deep) grey nomad style–a wandering writer of no fixed address. Yep! She’s hit the road in a Ford and a fifth wheeler –writing in and under the southern cross.
Readers and reviewers alike enthusiastically received her debut, House for all Seasons, placing it at #5 on the 2013 Nielsen’s Best Selling Debut Novel list. Simmering Season is book two in her Seasons Collection and  Season of Shadow and Light will be published by Simon and Schuster Australia in May.

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