- Title: The Eye of the Sheep
- Author: Sofie Laguna
- Category: Literary Fiction
- Publisher: August 2014 Allen & Unwin
Review by Angela Long for Welcome to my Library
Summary: Meet Jimmy Flick. He’s not like other kids. He finds a lot of the adult world impossible to understand – especially why his Dad gets so angry with him. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall sleep. She holds him tight enough to stop his cells spinning. It is only Paula who can keep Jimmy out of his father’s way. But when Jimmy’s world falls apart, he has no one else to turn to. He alone has to navigate the unfathomable world and make things right.
Review: Jimmy Flick is mum’s second miracle, six years younger than his brother Robby, Mum’s first miracle. But Jimmy is special. Sometimes he sees things clearer than the rest of the family and sometimes he fails to see the chaos he creates. Fast when he should be slow and slow when he should be fast. He can’t cry, he can’t laugh and sleep is illusive.
Through the eyes and voice of Jimmy, Sofie Laguna explores the many facets of family in The Eye of the Sheep. Emotions are complicated for the Flicks. There is an abundance of love but so too is there an abundance of violence. Like Yin and Yang, love and violence embraces their suburban existence.
It’s the early 90’s, times and emotions are hard and Jimmy’s autism gives him a detached, internalised viewpoint. Fascinated by wiring, networks and connections, he sees them everywhere; he sees what others can’t, giving the reader an insight into the dysfunctional dynamics that make up his family.
Jimmy instinctively knows that his parents love and need each other, “Without each other’s halves their vitals fell out.” but his father, Gav, has an emotional wall that he is unable to break through. His connections and disconnections with his family are heartbreaking and at the same time unforgiveable.
Paula, Jimmy’s mother, doesn’t look after herself, physically or emotionally. Desperate for love, her co-dependency suffocates her husband: ‘Her need was like a blanket you throw on a fire to extinguish the flames. Dad couldn’t breather under there.’ But for Paula ‘He was like a slice: she couldn’t give up’, and ultimately her love endangers not only herself but also Jimmy.
The Flicks are dysfunctional but also a family full of possibilities and Sofie Laguna expertly characterises each one. The joy of a go-cart, the first plunge through a wave, the tear of a husband waiting for his wife’s return.
Throughout the tumult of a husband and wife at odds, the innocence of the children is shattered by the adult world around them. Jimmy’s brother Robby grows up too quickly, youth and responsibility taunting each other. Brother, son and protector, he internalises his pain until eventually the violence becomes too much to ignore. After ‘the last fucking time’ his instinctive self-preservation shuts him out from his family, even though his responsibility draws him back.
As recession and depression take their toll, alcoholism takes over; the family implodes; and the outcomes are irreversible.
Laguna’s lyrical style sits well with the almost savant Jimmy, the sacrificial lamb of the family, and the book pulls you along to a climax that is inevitable but at the same time disturbing. Almost perfectly paced, there are moments when Jimmy’s enlightened voice becomes overwhelming, but this could be an emotion shared by his family. Above all Jimmy is resilient and never gives up. He knows:
‘If you look deep into the eye of a sheep you can see a light. It burns… and it never goes out’
The Eye of the Sheep is a novel that fixes Sofie Laguna’s place as an author of immense talent and whose work will age beautifully with time.
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Author Bio: Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer at the University of New South Wales, but after deciding law was not for her, she moved to Melbourne to train as an actor. Sofie worked for a number of years as an actor at the same time as completing a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Sofie is now an author and playright writing for both adults and children.
Her many books for young people have been named Honour Books and Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards and have been shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Awards. She has been published in the US and the UK and in translation throughout Europe and Asia. In 2008 Sofie released her first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong, to international acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award. Screen rights for the book have been optioned and Sofie has recently completed the screenplay. In 2014, Sofie published her second novel for adults The Eye of the Sheep. Sofie continues to write for a wide readership, from picture books for very young children, to series for older readers, to novels for adults. Sofie lives in Melbourne with her partner and their two young sons.
This book has been read and reviewed by Angela Long for WTML for the 2015 Australian Women Writers challenge. To read more about the challenge see their website www.australianwomenwriters.com.