Book Spotlight: You Belong Here by Laurie Steed
I don't think it would be incorrect to say that Laurie Steed's debut book has been a hotly anticipated one. And I say book and not novel here, because for the longest time, I think a lot of people thought that the first thing we saw from Laurie would be a collection of short stories. He is the short story maestro, the guru, the go-to person for all things short fiction in Perth. And yet, his recently publishing novel, You Belong Here is in fact... a novel.
Perhaps it would be more correct to say it's a novel in stories. There's a bit of room to move there, which I like.
It is the story of the Slater family, Steven and Jen and their three kids, and follows snippets of their lives (the good times and bad) over a couple of decades, all set to an atmospheric soundtrack which I am informed is also available as a Spotify playlist. Steven, who dreams of being a pilot, works in air traffic control and over time becomes less and less available to his wife (literally and emotionally) as she struggles with the pressures of new motherhood in a brand new city after they move to Perth. The implosion of their marriage will have aftershocks which shape the lives of their three children, Alex, Emily and Jay, right through to adulthood.
Yet, while this story is often one about bad things happening, it's also about the ways that love can get a person through those bad times. It's about the bond between siblings, about the love between parents and children, and it's about friendship in all its guises.
Be warned, dear reader, you will need a box of tissues at your side as you read You Belong Here.
Laurie Steed is a writer who does not waste words. It is easy to see that this book has been painstakingly and lovingly revised, and the end product is a perfect little novel that feels effortless to dive into. My only criticism would be that I wanted more-- I wanted to stay with this family for longer than the length of the book could allow. Which means that I will be going back and rereading it again and again, I am sure.
One thing that totally amazes me about the book is the skill with which Laurie Steed has crafted his characters. They are all relatably human, and even when they do terrible things or hurt one another through carelessness, you can understand them, and feel sympathy for the situations they find themselves in. By using multiple perspectives, and shifting the point of view of the story in each chapter, you get to see the character as they view themselves, but also as they view each other, making for a more even, nuanced portrait of complicated people. They feel so real that it almost seems you might walk past them on Beaufort Street should you head there after reading.
You Belong Here has been a long time coming, but it's worth the wait.
Five stars, and well done Laurie!