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Wife on the run by Fiona Higgins
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Wife on the run (2014)

by Fiona Higgins

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In Fiona Higgins' Wife on the Run, Paula McInnes has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourteen year old Caitlin and thirteen year old, Lachie. The family lives an ordinary, comfortable life in the Australian suburbs which is irrevocably changed when first Caitlin is the victim of a Facebook 'sex' scandal, and then, when Hamish is injured in an accident, Paula discovers what her husband has really been doing during his late nights 'working' from home.
Shocked and angry, Paula makes a snap decision to pull her children out of school and, along with her father Sid, embark on a three month caravanning tour around Australia, leaving Hamish behind. Freed from their structured routine, and with a ban on technology enforced, the family quickly embrace the pleasures of the journey - beautiful scenery, friendly locals, 'drinkypoo's' at sunset and for the teens, a growing sense of independence thanks to Grandpa Sid's 'life lessons'.
With her guard down, Paula is surprised to find herself susceptible to the charms of a charismatic Brazilian they meet on the road. Meanwhile, after a ten day bender, Hamish decides his life is empty without his wife and children in it, and sets out to catch up with them, but ends up making a detour or two along the way. Both Paula and Hamish are on the run, but neither of them are exactly sure if it is from or to one another.

Told from the dual perspectives of Paula and Hamish, Wife on the Run unfolds at a quick, entertaining pace. Part social commentary, part 'road trip' farce, Higgins tempers the serious themes of the novel - the perils of social media, marital breakdown, aging and self discovery - with some slightly absurd plot twists including an ever obliging tour bus operator, an illicit rendezvous, a Brazilian (of both types), and a lucky bet on the Melbourne Cup.

Strong but flawed characters, and the complicated dynamics between them, should resonate in one way or another with most readers. There is no denying that Paula is a bit of a control freak but she is largely a sympathetic character despite the mistakes she makes. Hamish is often a boorish sleaze but not entirely irredeemable, Sid is a treasure, and the children are fairly typical teens. The supporting cast is rich and varied, including 'Doggo', Marcelo, 'Farken' Frank, and Lisel17, all whom offer surprises you probably won't see coming.

Natural, if often earthy, language and dialogue is spiked with 'Australian-isms' and more than one surprisingly explicit sexual scene. There is plenty of humour, both overt and sly, but also astute and serious observations. The landscape, as the characters travel through South Australia, Western Australia and up to the Northern Territory, is familiar with a hint of the exotic.

Provocative, sharply insightful and wildly entertaining, Wife On the Run is not what you may expect from the synopsis but it is an engaging journey through love, heartbreak and self discovery. ( )
  shelleyraec | Nov 13, 2014 |
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