Bereft is set in New South Wales after the war during the Spanish Flu epidemic. Worldwide, more people died as a result of this than in World War I. The story’s protagonist, Quinn Walker, returns to the small country town of Flint, a place he fled as a teenager after being accused of interfering with and killing his younger sister. Quinn hides in the hills surrounding the town and makes peace with his mother, who is ill with the Spansih Flu. He is befriended by orphan, Sadie Frost. Sadie is wise beyond her years and has knowledge about Quinn’s crime that implies some level of mysticism. Together Quinn and Sadie face Quinn’s nasty uncle, also the Sheriff, and Quinn is able to help Sadie in a way that he was not able to help his beloved sister.
Bereft is beautifully written literary fiction. The relationship that develops between Quinn and Sadie, both damaged in their own way, is compelling. The unfolding of the story’s conclusion will have you biting your nails and holding your breath. The novel has won a number of awards, deservedly so.