The Choke 

Reviewed By  Ian Banks       October 26, 2017


Author  Sofie Laguna

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781760297244
Publisher:         Allen and Unwin
Release Date:   September 2017  


Award winning Sofie Laguna presents her third adult novel The Choke, set on the Murray River, a place of haunting natural beauty, a place that has well earned its name of the Choke, as at a certain place the river become so narrow the banks almost appear to touch, which provides the metaphor around which the story has been woven.

Justine is growing up the hard way, abandoned by her mother at a very young age, she is left to be raised by her grandfather, or Pop as she calls him, a man who is struggling to cope in a world after life in the hell that was the Burma Railway; a man who chooses to shun society, and pays scant attention to his young granddaughter.

Her half-brothers torment her during their play spent on the river banks, but Justine has her secret place, a place where she can simply be at peace. She also has Pops chooks who don’t judge her, simply accept her as the girl who feeds them and collects the eggs.

The children finally realise that their father is a criminal, who on a rare visit home manages to commit a crime which sees him sentenced for seven years, the boys going to live with an Aunt and Justine left to the care of Pop and a largely uncaring situation.

She struggles at school, failing to grasp the basics, failing to learn to read and write, eventually befriending Michael, a boy who is disabled and on crutches, who not only becomes her friend but also her protector, his family making this lonely, unloved girl feel welcome.

The world her father has exposed her too has come with terrifying dangers, all of which she is unprepared for, resulting in an appalling situation fraught with tragedy, but at the same time, placing a society on notice.

As Justine struggles to try and understand what is happening and what has happened to her, she begins to realise that she is not really all that helpless, that she too can fight back!

How is it that a small community could let this happen, is a moral question which underlines the story which sadly, in many cases, was once all too real.

Vital, alive and terribly real, Laguna’s characters come to life questioning, challenging and crying out to be recognised, to be heard, as real people, living and surviving in an all too real situation.

Powerful and gripping, the characters and tale told will remain long after the final page has drawn to a surprising conclusion.