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The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton
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Tim Winton, one of Australia’s most lauded novelists, has a “gift for making the vernacular lyrical”, said Rachel Seiffert in The Guardian. His protagonists tend to be “outsiders, beyond the pale” – and his latest novel “opens true to form”. Jaxie Clackton is a teenager whose mother has died of cancer and who lives in a small town in western Australia with his violently alcoholic father. When an accident with a car jack results in the latter’s death, Jaxie “knows who will be blamed” – so “he cuts and runs” in a stolen car.

Jaxie’s flight leads him into an “inhospitable hinterland”, where he chances upon a defrocked Irish priest “living like an old church father in an abandoned shepherd’s hut”, said Brian Martin in The Spectator. The pair “speak different languages” – the one studied and philosophical, the other raw and disordered – but they form a bond: in the priest’s “broken-down hovel”, Jaxie learns “self-awareness”. While the ending, designed to shock, is “not altogether unexpected”, this novel is for the most part a captivating blend of roughness and tenderness.