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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Wildflowers by Peggy Frew

Wildflowers is a very moving story revolving around three sisters. Meg, Nina and their younger sister Amber have grown up in Australia. They are a close knit family, although they are all quite different in their personalities.

We learn that Amber, who was a talented young child actor, has become an addict. Firstly to heroin and latterly to prescription medicine. Meg, as the older sister has decided that she and Nina need to do something to help Amber, so she decides they will take her on a ‘holiday’ to a remote location with a plan to help her detox. Nina is not really comfortable about this but Meg is strong and persuasive.

Nina is struggling with her own issues, and as the narrative revels through a series of reflections on past events in her life, things have almost come to crisis point for her too. She has had a series of affairs in the past and has recently broken up with a long time lover. Nothing is straight forward in that relationship either.

Meg is the bold sister, the capable one who takes things in hand. But there are sad events in her own past which may help to explain her desire to make things right for Amber. She also believes their parents let Amber down by letting her get involved in the acting in the first place.

For anyone who has ever had to deal with addiction in a close family member, it is obvious that the ripples of that behaviour carry right through the lives of everyone involved. The damage is not just to the addict, but to everyone who tries to intervene, help or just suffers from the consequences dreadful things that are often said and done.

The actual detox event is confronting and disturbing, and for Nina it’s something she just can’t deal with and needs to be removed from. She wants to help Amber in her own way but can’t cope with Meg’s approach. Nina is on her own journey of healing as well.

How and why Amber became addicted to drugs is revealed as the story progresses. It’s a complicated and complex situation, but also very thought provoking. The author writes beautifully. Her characters are gritty and relatable and although the subject matter is very sad, it’s also a book about love and family bonds.

I have not read any of Peggy Frew’s writing before, but I will be looking out for her earlier work. Wildflowers is her fourth novel.

Reviewer: Rachel White

Allen & Unwin


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