The Railwayman's Wife

In The Railwayman's Wife, Ashley Hay draws an intimate map of the bereaved heart against the picturesque backdrop of a seaside Australian town in 1948.

Anikka Lachlan leads a quiet, wholesome life with her husband, Mackenzie, and young daughter, Isabel, in postwar Thirroul, New South Wales. Mac works for the railway while Ani keeps house. The Lachlans have nothing but a pleasant future waiting for them when the unthinkable happens: a train accident kills Mac and makes Ani a widow. She cannot escape the pain of the loss, waking to wonder "how late it must be for the sun to already be so high and then remembers, in the next instant, what happened the day before." With their daughter to think of, Ani accepts the offer of a job at the Railway Institute's library, one branch in a network that transports books to patrons via train. Meanwhile, her loss continues to eat away at her heart.

Ani's compatriots in the land of despair are Frank Draper and Roy McKinnon, survivors of World War II's European theater who have only recently returned home. Hays lovingly constructs a rich snapshot of late '40s Thirroul, with its sea air, endless skies and thundering locomotives. Her quiet, graceful prose acts as a translucent overlay for turbulent emotion, like glimpsing rich velvet through wisps of lace. This thoughtful, elegant portrait of lives turned inside out and finding the way forward from despair is sure to find a place in the hearts of its audience. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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