In her second novel, Kate Mildenhall writes about a woman in extremis.
Her engineer husband is missing, last seen at the Golden Arc mine site in Indonesia. Everyone is looking for him. But the Department — the all-seeing body of the an enigmatic Australian government — is hunting him. Ben’s tracking chip — implanted beneath his skin, like the rest of the population, because ‘you want to know where your people are when the world becomes a shifting, wild, hungry thing’ — has gone dark. And now The Department vultures are circling. They’ve taken Mim’s passport. They’ve threatened to resettle her two children at the notorious BestLife. Their instructions are simple: remain in place until the matter is resolved.
In a society intently stripping its population of their autonomy, it’s a routine request. But Mim — for so long shackled by the expectations of motherhood, of being a wife, of being a sister, of being a good citizen; dominated by fear, pain and helplessness — decides to escape the horrors of bondage. With her children in tow, she flees; across the Australian outback, and on a perilous sea voyage to Indonesia, Mim is pushed to her absolute limits as she seeks to reunite her family. Liberated from the confines of her identity, she becomes something else; a consequence of her circumstances: a trailblazing heroine. A hero of our times, displaying unimaginable ingenuity and resourcefulness.
“The Mother Fault” is a rare creation. It is a work of powerful urgency, a literary thriller decorated with luminous sentences and meditations on motherhood, totalitarianism, love and independence. In painting a realistic portrait of tomorrow, Mildenhall sounds an urgent clarion for today. She has crafted a brilliantly pacy, visceral and intimate adventure story, demonstrating an unparalleled ability to convey tenderness as acutely as violence. “The Mother Fault” is an emotional and political powerhouse.
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