The storyline in this simple and yet complex voyage into the real world of middle age, is one that winds about the psyche until it spins its web of beauty, capturing the imagination, as Trevor and Elizabeth each evolve into intricate people, with backstories that have contributed to the manner in which they live their lives; slowly, repressed and almost regressive.
The Returns is a complex novel of humanity, loss, grief, loneliness and eventual deep friendship, built on a slow acceptance of each other’s frailties, a deep need for acceptance and an eventual non-threatening, gentle style of love.
Slow, and yet because of the slower metre, the words used by Philip Salom resonate deep within the human spirit, often somewhat tongue in cheek, which certainly helps lighten, what could all to easily become a somewhat depressing read.
Trevor spends his days as the owner of a bookshop in inner city Melbourne, accepting his life is fast unravelling, yet again, but not really knowing what to do about making changes, or even wanting to. His lethargy is great. He is very lonely.
Elizabeth is a freelance book editor who has a room to rent. She almost collapses outside Trevor’s bookshop, reluctantly admitting she is feeling faint but is OK. She returns later to post a notice for a room to rent in his shop window. Feisty and seeped deep in denial and guilt, she has become solitary and very lonely.
The room to rent is the catalyst they have both been seeking, which very, very slowly brings a rare and beautiful thing to both their lives; friendship and acceptance, and possibly even a gentle kind of love.
As the characters reveal their layers, of which there are many, the real beauty of Salom’s writing becomes apparent, as he shows a rich and deep understanding of how the many twists and turns that life offers up, create changes that often seem irreversible, but with the right circumstances and good dose of courage, can be the basis of a fresh new world.
The Returns is a very different read, gentle and almost unassuming, but will leave a lasting impression as it deals with the reality of life, living and moving on, with a very gentle, kind and understanding acceptance.