cover image The Sun Walks Down

The Sun Walks Down

Fiona McFarlane. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-60623-7

In McFarlane’s expansive latest (after The High Places), the search for a missing boy in the Australian outback in 1883 casts lights on the tensions roiling beneath the surface of the English colony. One day, six-year-old Denny Wallace goes for a walk and disappears into a dust storm. Members of the small farming community help Denny’s parents, Mathew and Mary, look for their son. Among the teeming cast are Minna Baumann, a newlywed who pines for her constable husband, Robert, after he joins the search party; Mr. Daniels, the sickly local vicar who is suspected of knowing what happened to Danny; Karl and Bess Rapp, itinerant artists who have come to paint the desert sunset; Cissy Wallace, one of Denny’s five sisters, who has her sexual awakening as a result of the search; and Jimmy Possum, an Aboriginal tracker whose talismanic cloak is coveted by Mrs. Axam, the community’s matriarch. But will their combined efforts lead to Denny’s ultimate rescue? Though there isn’t much of a plot, the vivid descriptions of the landscape, a lived-in feeling community, dozens of well-defined characters, and an honest look at the uneasy relationship between settlers and Australia’s Indigenous population carry the reader along. Fans of Richard Flanagan and Peter Carey will love this. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Susanna Lea Assoc. (Feb.)