I thought I was going to struggle reading this one as I only had it as a one week loan from the local library, but ended up reading it in two days.
Like in his debut, Wimmera, author Mark Brandi creates an atmosphere of foreboding in The Rip. The story centres on a homeless drug addict who always seems to be one bad decision away from disaster.
Although that storyline sounds grim, somehow Brandi captures, along with the sense of foreboding, the moments of intimacy and friendship in the woman’s life. The narrator’s situation might seem hopeless, but her affection for her dog and a fellow rough sleeper brings light and warmth to the page.
The narrator offers a perspective on her life that is quite different to what readers might imagine, from their perceived position of comfort and comparative ease. As she looks at workers passing by on the streets of Melbourne she thinks: “I haven’t got anything against those people, but it’s just never gonna be my life. And I know some of those people probably feel sorry for me, or scared, or maybe worse. They wouldn’t want my life, I know that – and I probably wouldn’t want theirs.
“Still, it would be better to be in the middle, I think – with a life somewhere between mine and theirs.”
However, tension lies in the poverty, instability and the constant threat of violence the characters face. While the ending is not entirely happy, it is hopeful.
I loved how The Rip drew me into a different experience of life and was ashamed that I had so often been the woman who is a little fearful of those sleeping in the streets, like the women the narrator observes in this story. I feel that books like this one can make you think differently about those living in the fringes, and that is a very good thing.