In Ubud, on the Island of Bali, there was a retreat called Fearless, where people with phobias and fears could go to have their terrors eased and soothed away. Six people from around the world came for a week’s session. There was Remy, a French aristocrat, Janelle, an Australian woman, Lorenzo, an Italian, Annie, an American, Cara also from Australia, and Henry, a birdwatcher from England.
Reading the backstory for these people was fascinating as each of them came to recognize that they could no longer function in society unless they could conquer their fears. Annie had a terror of snakes, and we learn that her much loved husband was bitten by a rattlesnake while working on their farm. Cara was busy on her property when her one year old daughter wandered off, and sadly drowned. Cara never had been able to forgive herself for her absence. Lorenzo was married to a beautiful woman who was desperate for a child. Although they were both healthy and had no physical barrier to conceiving, several years had passed with no results. Henry was terrified of public speaking, a result of childhood traumas, and the fact that he had become a serious bird watcher, meant he was isolated most of the time. Janelle has a fear of flying; Remy a fear of heights.
So, we understand what has brought these people to Bali, and the next fascinating part of the story is revealed. The leader of the retreat is called Pak Tony, and he has skillfully prepared challenges and tasks to suit each of the people. As they begin their tasks, they start to learn a little more about each other, and are encouraged to see the strengths and value of their fellow participants. Local religion and traditions are used to counsel and advise the foreigners. Gradually, the strangers become linked, and support each other. The transition from strangers to understanding friends slowly develops, until most secrets are revealed and shared.
It is here, in the final stages of the book, that a shocking occurrence brings reality back to the people who have been surrounded by peace and light. It is almost as if the book was divided into two sections and we are suddenly faced with evil and death. The transition is very powerful and creates an unforgettable impression. We read with breath held, how each of these very real people cope with disaster, the likes of which they have never experienced before. The comfortable story we have been enjoying suddenly forces the reader back into the everyday world. This has been cleverly managed, believable and seamlessly intertwined into the story. It makes for a gripping read.
|Publisher||Allen & Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen & Unwin|