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Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
Asylum by Isobel Blackthorn is a work of women’s fiction. Although set in Australia, it’s a book that’s sure to speak to women everywhere. Twenty-nine-year-old Yvette Grimm reluctantly returns to the family farm in rural Australia after a ten-year absence, needing a place to regroup and lick her wounds after a terminated pregnancy and breakup that have left her devastated. She has left Malta and her lover, Carlos, who’s both a womanizer and a crook, for a reunion with a mother and sister with whom she has little in common. She’s in Australia on a holiday visa and it doesn’t look like she’s going to be able to stay in the country unless she marries someone. Unhappy and bored, she temporarily moves to a cockroach-infested flat in Perth which her friend, Thomas, has a lease on. Yvette finds a job in a café and although her life is better than it was living with her mother in the middle of nowhere, it’s lonely and far from ideal. Two good things come out of her move, however. The first is that she starts painting again and the second is that Yvette reconnects with her childhood best friend, Heather McAllister, who works in a car park across from the café. Yvette sorely longs for the child she had aborted and plunges recklessly into the world of online dating, which leads her to several one night stands that eventually leave her pregnant. Suddenly, Yvette is forced to take stock of her life and doesn’t like what she sees. At twenty-nine, she’s stuck in Australia on a holiday visa, living in a cockroach-infested flat in Perth, and is about to become a single mother. Not exactly a promising outlook, to be sure – but things are about to get a whole lot more complicated…
Blackthorn’s main protagonist, Yvette, is someone many women can relate to. Coming out of a bad relationship, she’s at a loose end and doesn’t feel as though she fits in anywhere. She’s returned to a country that doesn’t really want her nor does she consider it her home, but it’s a place to escape to while she finds herself. She’s far from perfect and spends a good deal of her free time ruminating over her less than idyllic childhood. The author does a great job in making Yvette come to terms with those childhood memories as she is forced to grow up and take responsibility for her actions. With the challenges facing her, Yvette must also come to terms with and deal with the prejudices associated with asylum seekers as she also seeks asylum in a country that doesn’t really want her. Asylum is a solid story that deals with one woman’s journey to adulthood while underscoring the social and political injustices faced by those who don’t hold Australian citizenship. Although some of the language will be strange to non-Australian speakers, the story is nevertheless compelling and utterly relatable. Well worth the read.