Subversive Reader Reviews: Love Like Water (AWW2013)

Book reviews and AWW posts can be found here.

AWW2013 – Book 6

Love Like Water

Adventures of a Subversive Reader: Love Like Water
Meme McDonald

Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Library book, borrowed from Narangba Library


I knew nothing about this book before I started reading it, only that it was set in Alice Springs and that it was written by an Australian woman. It was one that I randomly picked off the shelves in the library. (Incidentally, I used to do that an awful lot – just pick up books at random. Now it feels like I look for recommendations, then read reviews and I’m almost too prepared before I read. This challenge is helping me return to my ‘just pick it up’ roots!)

Love Like Water is about three people – Cathy, Margie and Jay – who are all newcomers to Alice Springs. I believe the book is set in the early nineties – there’s talk about basketball and early Yothu Yindi, and the three characters are coming to terms with being adults, being alone and being in Alice Springs. The main story belongs to Cathy and Jay. Cathy is from an outback station, where she’s always followed the expected path – she’s gone away to boarding school, come home, supported her brother (who was always going to inherit the property) and found a local boy to get engaged to. But when her fiance is killed in a plane crash, she packs up and follows her friend Margie to Alice Springs.

Jay, on the other hand, is following a job opportunity to Alice Springs. He’s gained success as a DJ in Sydney and has been offered the morning radio spot for the Aboriginal radio station in Alice Springs. He’s coming to terms with his urbane background, and his family background which is so different to the Aboriginal people in Alice Springs. Additionally, there’s a pervasive racism which allows him to be popular and ‘seen’ in some areas of town, while dismissing him in others.

Finally there’s Margie. Her story isn’t as big and overwhelming as Jay or Cathy. Instead she acts more like a mirror, her point of view reflecting off the other two, who soon meet and find themselves developing a deep relationship.

This was such a lyrical read, the words often read like music. It was easy to fall into the story and almost let it take you along, even when the story made unpleasant twists. Although Cathy, Jay and Margie don’t always make good decisions, they are likeable people and you want them to have good lives. I would easily read more about both Cathy and Jay, as well as the other richly written minor characters in the story. I would highly recommend this book to others, and I look forward to searching for more from Meme McDonald

On a separate point, this was classified and shelved as a young adult book – which demonstrates what a broad range you can find in young adult. These characters are in early adulthood – their early 20s – but they’re definitely not the teenagers, or even the young school leavers, that you usually find in young adult books. I wonder why this wasn’t published as an adult book, and whether there’s a place – and where that is – for stories about people in their early 20s.



  1. Meme McDonald was at the Write Around the Murray festival last year – she was awesome to listen to. And I really want to read this one.

    As for the YA designation, I think it gets put in YA partly because Meme has written other YA and authors get pigeonholed, but also because those books for early 20s get put in YA as well. There’s a growing tendency in the US to title this area “new adult”, which I’m not certain of yet, but yeah. And of course part of the issue is that libraries (all but the city ones) tend to lose their young people because the ones who read go off to Uni and the ones who don’t never came to the library anyway. And then they don’t come back until they have kids (or, in my case, until you lose your job and need to save money).

    1. It’s a stunning, lyrical book. As I said, the characters can be pretty flawed and some of the things they deal with aren’t pretty, but you still end up liking the main three.

      I’ve seen that New Adult area mentioned recently – not sure how I feel about it either – I think an awful lot of adults would enjoy this book though.

  2. Hey thanks for your review, I met Meme McDonald last year at a library workshop and she spoke a lot about this book. I recall that it’s based on a few of her own personal experiences. She’s led a very interesting life and she is a very talented and gifted author and presenter with plenty to offer. YA or Adult, can’t wait to read this one !

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