Book Club - Matthew Ryan Davies' Things We Bury

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Matthew Ryan Davies is the author of the young adult novel This Thing of Darkness, which was highly commended in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. Today I’ve brought in his debut adult novel Things We Bury.

Transporting us to the town of Pent, Matt offers up a portrait of life in a regional town through his central family, the Hardings.

It’s a sad fact that tragedy brings us together.

Dane, Jac, and Josh don’t get together as much as they should. Spread out across the country; Jac in Sydney, Josh all over the country as his TV work takes him and Dane, who never left Pent. It just never seems like there’s enough time.

Now the siblings must converge on their hometown after their father is in a car accident that leaves him in a coma.

It’s not just the accident. Each of the siblings has their own drama eating away at their peace. The reunion isn’t destined to go smoothly. Pent is no longer the same town they grew up in, but the ghosts of the past still rest there.

While their father remains in a coma, questions emerge that have them wondering if there is more to his accident that they first assumed. What had been happening in their dad’s life that could lead him to do something desperate?

Things We Bury blends suspense and mystery with character driven storytelling.

It’s instantly relatable because no matter how wonderful or fraught your own family relationships we have all of us had to negotiate family dynamics that seem to shift underneath us as we grow.

Josh’s return to Pent is wrapped in scandal. He left the town and changed his name to become someone in entertainment. Now having realized his dream he is dogged by an incident that has blown up on social media and left him hiding his face beneath a baseball cap.

Jac has returned with a surprise. She’s engaged, but doubting herself, and the person she’d most like to tell is lying in a coma. Jac was always their father’s favourite, which makes it harder to deal with the possibility he did this to himself.

Dean has had to step up in his dad’s absence and is questioning more than ever the path he chose. Can he really ignore his own dreams any longer to run their father’s company.

In each of the siblings stories and in the hovering questions around their father’s crash we have the specter of mental health that too often gets ignored, especially amongst men.

The title Things We Bury hints at secrets and these drive the narrative forward but also remind us of the difficulties we can face when we feel like we have to go it alone.

Through the shifting perspectives, as each chapter moves through a different character point of view, we see the siblings' struggles and also hear as they question what might have been on their father’s mind. Together they question how he was feeling and come up against the usual suspects of stoicism and a fear of seeming weak in front of others.

While the central mystery of why drives the siblings to try and uncover their father’s state of mind we are also offered parallel narratives of their own struggles. It’s an effective and expansive look at the fact that mental health is a concern we all share and that we deal with it best when we deal with it together.

Things We Bury is a page turner that offers us valuable insights. I went in looking at the mystery and found I was most gripped by the personal stories of each of the Harding family…7

Book Club is produced and presented by Andrew Pople

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307 episodes