My apologies to Debra Oswald, but I have to confess that I grabbed this book in excitement at the local library on Friday because I thought it was written by Debra Adelaide who wrote The Household Guide to Dying. And I love Debra Adelaide. I love her enough to have emailed her when I read The Household Guide to Dying to tell her how moved I was by her book. So, you can only imagine that when I saw Useful by Debra … I jumped, pounced, grabbed. It was the last, lonely copy on the new release shelves. A ‘RED HOT READS’.
Anyway, long story short, I didn’t reailse that Debra Oswald was not, in fact, Debra Adelaide, until I sat down and started reading. After a momentary pang of disappointment, I was thrust into this wonderful book and I soon forgot that initial pang as I fell in love with Debra Oswald and her overwhelming skill at crafting such an intriguing novel filled with these wonderous characters.
I finished the book in less than 24 hours. I couldn’t stop. I had to find out what was going to happen, hanging desperately on to the tiniest thread of possibility that Sully would indeed find his way down the correct path, hoping that maybe I would be spared the weight of an ending that left me doubting …
Now, I won’t spoil it for you by revealing anything more. What you need to know about this book before you commit to reading it is that you will be intrigued. Meet Sully, a man who has never done anything useful in his life. He is the epitome of a bludger, in the true Aussie sense and an alcoholic to boot. He has a well meaning heart but is often sabotaged by his inability to stay sober and the outrageous commitments he makes whilst drunk. But, he’s a likeable guy and that is central to the novel’s success. We first encounter Sully on the edge of a tall building as he prepares to end his useless life. He has it all planned out. There is nothing to live for. He has given away all his possessions, said his goodbyes and he is ready to take a final leap.
What Sully doesn’t consider is the fact that he might survive … that he is so useless that he cannot even execute a suicide! The novel unfolds from that point and Sully goes on to encounter a range of wonderfully vivid and really Australian characters. As we journey with him, we discover the intricacies of attachments that he has made, the beauty of his relationship with a dead man’s dog and the fragility of being honest about emotions.
There is no doubt in my mind. It’s not Debra Adelaide, but this book has it all and I loved it. I loved it so much that I’m looking forward to my next Debra Oswald (as well as my next Debra Adelaide – hint, hint, nudge, nudge!).
If you like a well crafted Aussie drama with balls then this just the book that you have been waiting for!