Monday, August 3, 2015


Useful, Debra Oswald

This modern Australian fiction was an enjoyable & interesting read. Sullivan Moss decides that after years of being an unreliable friend, uncommitted husband, useless employee and regular drunk that he is a waste of space and attempts to kill himself. Waking in hospital to find he has failed, he decides on the spur of the moment that his body is still useful and therefore he will donate a kidney. After realising it will take some time to be allowed to donate, as well as needing to prove himself healthy enough in mind and body, he starts to take care of himself, stops drinking and finds a job.

At the same time single-mum and radio producer Natalie’s dad dies leaving a dog to care for. Through mutual friends, Sullivan ends up dog and flat-sitting for her. As they interact, they start to form a friendship.

Through the various interactions with their mutual friends, you see the history that has brought them both to where they are now. There are some sad and harsh figures along the way who drink & swear too much and sleep around, however they are fully in character and quite believable.  Unlike the depressing awfulness of The Slap, whose characters had no redeeming features or any positive change, these characters and their relationships are slowly changed for the better. Spanning about a year, it charts well the ups and downs of friendships and relationships and towards the end there were some twists and turns I really didn’t expect.  It is set in Sydney and much of it I could visualise.  I never know if that’s good thing for people who have no connection with a setting, but I liked it.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read.  Oswald has been involved with writing many Australian TV dramas, has authored numerous plays and also a number of kids’ fiction books.  This appears to be her first adult fiction.  I hope she writes more.

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