To do Turn Left At Venus justice, one must be patient and be prepared to re-read and digest slowly all that you have set before you. This is no ordinary tale, but ranges across the world and across time and space. It is complex in dealing with issues of aging and death, lifelong friendship, and journeys to a planet where “No one was always the same sex.” The reader needs to begin this book with all previous expectations set aside and be prepared to think.
To begin the journey, we are told of the friendship that develops between Ada and Leyla, two young girls who meet on a ship journeying from Europe to Australia. Once they land, their ways part, but they always stay in touch and maintain that bond. Then the story moves to a nursing home where Ada, now an elderly woman, is dying. Her carers and nurses begin discussing the book that she has written.
Ada’s story is set in the outer planet of Lueshira, with the lifestyle being gradually revealed. The idea in this world is that no sex has a specific characteristic or ability; death is greeted with celebrations and a sending off party is given to the dying. Things are very different there.
Memory and imagination are intertwined as Ada moves through life, and journeys around the world living in Ubud, Kings Cross and San Francisco. Excerpts from her novel are interspersed through the story and gradually we begin to meld all the threads together.
This is a deeply complex piece of writing. If the reader begins the story with the understanding that there are many threads and that gradually the connecting point of all these come together, it will be less of a challenge.