cover image Toads' Museum of Freaks and Wonders

Toads' Museum of Freaks and Wonders

Goldie Goldbloom. New Issues Poetry Press, $26 (323pp) ISBN 978-1-930974-88-3

In Goldbloom's prize-winning debut, set in 1943, albino Gin is a talented pianist living on a remote Australian farm with her bizarre, elfin husband Toad and their children, far removed from the life she once led in Perth: ""I was an evil omen, a pale and hunched ghost whose own mother wouldn't have warmed her with a kiss."" At 30, Gin is resigned to her lot in life, dictated by a genetic deformity that has kept her from a successful music career and dooms her to feeling like a sideshow act-until Italian prisoners of war arrive and everything changes. Gin identifies more with her newfound friend Antonio than with Toad, whom she had married after just one meeting, figuring no one else would offer. As she learns more about Toad's predilections, Gin draws closer to Antonio, learning to trust for the first time in her life. Goldbloom's writing deftly captures Gin's overwhelming isolation, reinforced by the unforgiving landscape, creating an unusual and haunting tale that will linger in readers' minds.