Tugging on the heartstrings, infuriating at times and deeply poignant, Never Look Desperate from Rachel Matthews, is set within the seldom discussed area of generational trauma and the wide spread, long lasting effects this causes on the ones who we are supposed to love and guide.
Melbourne is beginning to reopen after the long, dark, desperate days of Covid; the residue of fear still remains. Bernard is steeped in misery as he has lost his wife, even though they were separated and his beloved father. He is lonely, wanting noting more than to be hugged, have someone to talk with, to be normal, whatever that means.
Minh, fit, healthy, savvy and distanced from her family is seeking someone to be a part of her life, but is cautiuous about finding the right person. She has been hurt before.
Goldie is struggling to cope with the death of her husband Marvin, a man she felt she had fallen out of love with many years before this death. She has focused her life around organic, environmental and spiritual guidelines, failing to understand her young son Bernard; turning him into what he considered a freak show.
As each of the protagonists struggle to deal with their emotional issues, their sense of loss, grief and despair, each one acknowledges they are broken in spirit, wondering if they can ever heal and find someone who truly loves them.
Matthews has captured the funny, wry reality and angst of these vulnerable souls and how they face their issues eventually; even though it took a disinfected cruise ship, in Goldie’s case, a step father who, facing serious illness, refuses to see his daughter and Bernard getting to know the man upstairs and why he plays such incredibly loud music.
Beautifully constructed each of the characters have developed their personalities with flair, often reminiscent of those we know or have met on our life journeys, each one remaining long after the last page has been read. A wry chuckle over some of Bernard’s antics returns, Goldie’s self-obsession has been well portrayed. Minh’s gentle softness balances the mother and son as they all struggle slowly into love.
Never Look Desperate, is a delicately balanced work which will long remain as a much loved story of our times.
REVIEW BY JANET MAWDESLEY SEPTEMBER 28, 2023, 10:56 AM