Sue Younger’s debut novel, Days Are Like Grass, is a book that lingers.
Paediatric surgeon, Claire Bowerman, has reluctantly returned to Auckland from London with her teenage daughter, Roimata, and her partner Yossi in tow. Yossi, ex-Israeli army, convinced Claire she should move home where it’s peaceful and where their part-Maori daughter (Yossi is not the biological father) could get in touch with her roots.
The story takes place over summer in central Auckland where Claire works at Starship Children’s Hospital, and at Claire’s family bach on Waiheke, where the peace and quiet Yossi so enjoys is interrupted only by Claire’s growing emotional tension and the gritty reality of her work as a paediatric surgeon.
Roimata is 15, impetuous, confident and curious about her mysterious father. Neither Yossi or Roimata can understand Claire’s reticence about her past and, when details of a past Claire would rather forget begin to surface, Roimata and Yossi both press her not only to talk her family, but to forgive.
After some tough moments, Claire finally confronts her past, and moves forward with her future.
The story is a quiet but vivid account of a woman’s struggle to hold onto herself and keep her family safe. It’s a loose thriller; the twists and turns in the plot itself are not the hook, and the story is not widely original, but it’s well told. The characters are vivid and it’s hard not to feel Claire’s fear and pain as her control slips away.
As a counterpoint to the story of Claire and Yossi and Roimata’s journey, are the journey’s of the families Claire operates on, mostly poor, often abused children.
The book as a whole is an exploration of a mother’s love – in all the forms it might take
Younger has created a vivid and engaging account of a woman who’s desperately trying to keep it all together. Her writing is engaging, and while the plot is relatively simple and some of the storylines resolve overly neatly, it’s an enjoyable read.