Title: The Eye of the Sheep
Author: Sofie Laguna
Genre: General Fiction
Opening line: ‘…It was Saturday morning and I was doing the gardening with mum …’
Blurb: – Told from the mesmerising point of view and in the inimitable voice of Jimmy, this is an extraordinary novel about a poor family who is struggling to cope with a different and difficult child.
“… Ned was beside me, his messages running easily through him, with space between each one, coming through him like water. He was the go-between, going between the animal kingdom and this one. I watched the waves as they rolled and crashed towards us, one after another, never stopping, always changing. I knew what was making them come, I had been there and I would always know…”
Jimmy Flick is not like other kids – he’s both too fast and too slow. He sees too much, and too little. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall asleep. 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 to navigate the unfathomable world on his own, and make things right.
My thoughts: I am rarely compelled to read a book because of its cover, however the cover of THE EYE OF THE SHEEP was one of those rare occurrences, it leapt out of the catalogue and said “Pick me, pick me!” How could I refuse the demands of two such gorgeous characters staring at me? Even better the story contained behind the cover was just as compelling to read. Turns out the two characters on the front cover are the narrator of the story, Jimmy, and his canine friend Ned.
I loved Jimmy. Jimmy is special, he talks endlessly, asking questions and explaining what he sees. He can ‘see’ the internal workings of things such as blood moving through the body and the rust growing where his father works. Jimmy can also feel the cells of his body racing faster than everything else so that he gets frightened and overcome by it all, only his mother seems to be able to make things slow down for him. His mother also insists that despite her boy being special he will be brought up as any other child, which may not be in Jimmy’s best interest as his lack of awareness often results in him becoming a victim in the world outside his family. Because Jimmy tells the story, starting as a very young child, the at times, horrifying events that go on around him are not as in your face as they could have been. Through Jimmy we see love, alcoholism, domestic violence, poverty, retrenchment, fear and a dysfunctional family. Jimmy’s naivety gives him a unique way of seeing people and the world. So Jimmy only partially understands why his brother makes him hide when dad starts listening to a certain type of music and drinking a certain type of alcohol. He only partially understands why his mother cries out on those nights and bruises appear on her body after these nights. He can’t reconcile this dangerous father with the one who builds him a billycart and takes him in a plane for a seaside holiday with Uncle Rodney and his dog Ned. Ned also grounds Jimmy, when Jimmy is touching Ned the world stops racing around and he feels peace.
The descriptive language in THE EYE OF THE SHEEP is brilliant, and far from the subject being grim and despairing, it actually touches your very soul with its special blend of pathos and humour. I worried for Jimmy as I understood what was happening even when he didn’t, and when a fairly crucial turning point arrived in the story I just wanted to scoop him up in my arms to protect him as he had no idea at all how his life would change. Mind you neither did I; would his life change for the better or for the worse? Well, you will just have to read it to see, I thoroughly recommend this book.
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B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.
With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for my copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99