Close to Home by Pamela Cook (A Review)
In Close to Home, Charlie Anderson chooses to live an uncomplicated, emotionally stable life. Her career, working as a vet for Primary Industries, is fulfilling, her speciality being the Hendra virus. However her life away from work is lacking and she seems very much alone. When her boss sends her to the coastal village of Naringup to investigate a possible outbreak of the virus, her world is suddenly upended.
Naringup, a coastal farming and horse breeding area, holds many bitter sweet memories for Charlie. Having been sent there as a teenager to live with her only remaining relatives after the death of her parents, she returns to face what is left of her dysfunctional family. She struggles to reconnect with her cousin Emma, who was left behind when Charlie chose to leave for university and Emma carries a huge amount of resentment, whereas Charlie has never looked back. As the government appointed vet, she has her work cut out for her, dealing with the horse and farming community who choose to deny the possibility that the Hendra virus could travel so far south to affect their livestock and livelihoods.
She enlists the help of local park ranger Joel Drummond to help with educating the locals on how to deal with the bat populations that carry the virus and roost in the adjoining National Park. Joel provides a romantic interest and Pamela realistically develops their relationship as the story unfolds.
She portrays the original rundown and ordinary township through Charlie’s memories, and tracks the town’s development into a vibrant village with an influx of city dwellers moving into the area. As the story builds, so does the tension between Charlie and her cousin Emma, fuelled by Emma’s abusive and bullying husband. The undercurrent of familial abuse is carefully woven through the story.
As each chapter develops the divide between the farming community and the scientists fighting to protect them grows wider and more secrets are uncovered about Charlie’s past and her relationship with her family, until the story builds to an explosive climax that nobody could predict.
Pamela writes with great feeling about Charlie’s struggle to overcome the emotional disconnect between herself and Emma and how by overcoming the resentments they both carry from the past, both are able to heal and rebuild their relationship. The characters are well written and the story unfolds and builds easily to the climax, with a few surprises thrown in along the way. An enjoyable read with plenty of emotion woven into the mix.