The Better Son 

Reviewed By  Grasshopper2       October 21, 2016


Author  katherine Johnson

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781925183399
Publisher:         Ventura Press
Release Date:   October 2016  


It is the year 2002, and Kip, the main character, has returned to the place, the farm, where he and his older brother Tommy discovered a cave when they were children. Kip is now married with an eleven year old son, but has always needed to return to the farm and location where they grew up. He feels a sense of satisfaction that he has been able to return from overseas and complete a task that was long overdue.

 The story then moves to the years when Kip and his brother Tommy, where living on the dairy farm in Tasmania with their parents. Harold, the father, is a very popular man in the small country town as he returned from the war, unlike most of his mates. However, at home it is a different matter, and Harold is a very angry man; mostly with Kip. One day, overcome with fury, Harold punches Kip and breaks his nose, telling the boy that if he mentions this to his mother, he will be buried in a hole at the back of the garden. Kip never understands why his father is so vicious towards him and so caring about his brother.

 The boys enjoy each other’s company, and love to explore, eventually finding the entrance to a cave. Remembering the dire warnings from their mother, the boys decide to keep the cave a secret. They gradually bring ropes, lanterns and candles to the cave entrance so they can explore it thoroughly. The majesty and beauty they discover makes them more determined to keep their secret. Meanwhile life rolls along in the small country town, and secrets are abundant

 Disaster happens, with the whole fragile relationship of the war damaged father and the long suffering mother, falling apart. The lives of many people are affected, not in the least Kip. There are many aspects to this story to keep the reader engrossed. Relationships change over the years, and lives are lived, no longer to expectations but as a result of fear. Issues are not resolved, but the author has realistically tied the story together, linking all elements of actions that have gone before.

 The Author, after graduating from Queensland University with Honours in Marine Biology, moved to Tasmania, where she spent the next ten years working as a science journalist. Perhaps it was this involvement with the land and the environment that gives this book its tremendously powerful sense of authenticity. The story is set in the majesty of the north western region of Tasmania which has sink holes and is built on limestone. The descriptions of the bush, and the mountains, are superb, “Blue -grey in the late afternoon light, their steep sides striated with vertical columns….and look like massive Gothic Cathedrals rising out of the wilderness”.

 Katherine Johnson certainly deserves the acclaim she has received for this book.