Culture Street

Books

Floodline by Kathryn Heyman

On August 26, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

Kathryn Heyman’s extraordinary fifth novel is a daring look at the nuances of belief. When a place is thrown into chaos faith and hope are examined as salvation is sought.

Mikey, the enigmatic host of a Christian shopping channel, feels compelled to go on a mercy mission to assist flood victims. Together with her sons, Mustard and Talent, and a trailer full of care packages she makes her way to Horneville, the centre of the flood. Buoyed by her faith in Jesus she is confident that she can assist on behalf on NuDay, her church and salvation. Mustard, Mikey’s eight year old son, is on a different mission of his own. He still believes his father to be alive and is determined to find him. As he begins helping his mother with the rescue mission, he becomes more certain that his father is close by.

Although Mikey is serious in her strong belief, Heyman writes satirically about the organisation that defines Mikey. Both Mikey and her sons have aligned themselves with the head of the church, Pastor Gary.

“Pastor Gary loved to remind his people all about how God wanted to bless them, and give them loads of stuff, the way he had done to Gary. The Lord had blessed Gary with six properties, including a resort condo in Abu Dhabi ... “

Heyman looks at the way faith is tested when faced with such desperate physical needs. Mikey finds that her theoretical belief is challenged as she grapples with the sheer scope of the disaster in Horneville.

On the other side of the city floodwaters continue to rise, medical staff find themselves trapped inside Horneville City Hospital. Nurse Gina Francson has not left the hospital for days. As her patients become seriously ill and supplies limited she is forced to make life changing decision.

Heyman fits an incredible number of topics into this novel. Faith hope, euthanasia and homophobia are all thrown into the spotlight in this disaster zone.

Floodline is quite brilliant in its observation of human behaviour and the way tragedy brings out the best and worst in different people. Heyman balances a book that is preoccupied with tragedy with moments of great humour.

It is most definitely an award contender.

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