The Australian

Emma Smith-Stevens, creative writing instructor for the Bard Prison Initiative, introduces the nameless protagonist of her inventive debut novel, The Australian, as a young man living a freewheeling existence in Melbourne. Paying for college by posing with tourists while dressed as Superman, he believes he is destined for greatness, and despite haphazard enthusiasm, the Australian immigrates to New York to become a rich man. His winding path suffers failed turns--as a Wall Street trader, "venture capitalist," club owner and parkour competitor. He soon meets and marries Fiona, ultimately becoming a stay-at-home parent to their son.

Rudderless despite his family, the Australian returns to Melbourne hoping to find some ballast by coming to terms with his mother and investigating the legend of the father he never knew. Eventually he discovers that becoming the man he wants to be is a less clear journey than the one to riches.

A slice-of-life in six acts covering a dozen years, The Australian is an astute, often satirical look at self-actualization and what it means to be a man, partner, father and son. Smith-Stevens writes in a marvelously voyeuristic style, as if watching a lab rat from on high. The Australian can be shallow and clueless, but Smith-Stevens deftly avoids the potential for disconnect by injecting humor and insight into the human condition. The nameless man, both hero and no-hoper, is a poignant and pointed reflection of the imperfections that vex us all. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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