The World Beneath

The World Beneath

4.0 3
by Cate Kennedy

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The first novel from acclaimed author Cate Kennedy is a compassionate and unswerving portrait of a broken family whose members go to extraordinary lengths to reclaim their lives and relationships from the mistakes of the past.

Fifteen years after their break-up, Rich and Sandy have both settled into the unfulfilling compromises of middle age: he’s a


The first novel from acclaimed author Cate Kennedy is a compassionate and unswerving portrait of a broken family whose members go to extraordinary lengths to reclaim their lives and relationships from the mistakes of the past.

Fifteen years after their break-up, Rich and Sandy have both settled into the unfulfilling compromises of middle age: he’s a late-night infomercial editor with photojournalism aspirations; she makes hippie jewelry for a local market and struggles to maintain a New Age lifestyle that fails to provide the answers she seeks. To distract themselves from their inadequacies, Rich and Sandy cling to the shining moment of their youth, when they met as environmental activists as part of a world-famous blockade to save Tasmania’s Franklin River.

Their daughter, Sophie, has always remained skeptical of this ecological fairytale, but when Rich invites her on a backpacking trip through Tasmania for her fifteenth birthday, Sophie sees it as a way to bond with a father she’s never known. As they progress further into the wilderness, the spell of Rich’s worldly charm soon gives way to suspicion and fear as his overconfidence sets off a chain of events that no one could have predicted.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Australian Kennedy's (Dark Roots) chick friendly debut novel, 15-year-old anorexic Sophie Reynolds comes of age in a fast-paced, well-observed study of family relationships. Sophie's mother, former hippie Sandy, trundles toward middle age with hennaed hair and a flagging jewelry business. Then Rich, Sophie's father, reappears to offer a week-long backpacking trip in Tasmania that Sophie sees as an opportunity to bond with her mysterious father, annoy her mother, and indulge her obsession with rigorous exercise. Rich, a deadbeat dad with a dead-end job, hopes to impress his wayward daughter with fancy hiking gear and borrowed music. But when he strays from the path without a map, stalking the perfect photo, he endangers them both. With Rich and Sophie missing, Sandy is forced to re-examine her life: her criticizing mother; her festering resentment of Rich; and her friends, who enjoy crises more than company. The pitfalls of nostalgia and the disappointment of everyday life contrast sharply with the ravishing Tasmanian landscapes Kennedy is excellent at painting, along with interpersonal terrain, but the novel wants to be more profound than it actually is. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

“A thoughtful debut novel reminiscent of Hornby . . . Well-observed and thoughtfully funny . . . Life, Kennedy suggests, is largely resistant to our schemes and resolutions. Faced with the realities of both the natural world and our thorny personal relationships, we need more than good intentions.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Kennedy evokes a more lyrical version of Jodi Picoult . . . hitting the reader with raw, heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious prose. . . . A wise and graceful debut novel . . . Kennedy is an author to watch.”—Library Journal

“A very effective blend of social comedy and lyrically precise naturalism. . . . Kennedy writes like an Antipodean Anne Tyler, wryly aware of the heart’s internal contradictions yet slow to judge. Subtle allusions to the myth of Persephone add another level to this impressive tale of self-reliance and self-delusion.”—Financial Times

“In elegant, fluidly written prose, Kennedy not only delivers scathing portraits of the ineffectual adults and the times that shaped them, but also makes the epic wilderness another vividly rendered character in the story. A gripping debut.”—Booklist (starred review)

“The pitfalls of nostalgia and the disappointment of everyday life contrast sharply with the ravishing Tasmanian landscapes Kennedy is excellent at painting, along with interpersonal terrain.”—Publishers Weekly

“Kennedy’s wilderness is the freezing, rain-soaked Tasmanian mountains, with their blazing red fagus trees and bizarre, secretive wildlife. It’s a bewildering heart of darkness. . . . [A] bracing, unsentimental, and often very funny full-length debut . . . [that follows] the spiky, uncompromising Sophie, forced to find reserves of strength and forgiveness for her two infuriatingly childlike parents.”—The Guardian (UK)

"Cate Kennedy, celebrated for her short fiction, this year began her long-distance career with The World Beneath. To my mind, she enters the stadium a hundred metres in front of the next novice and with the best time for many years."--Peter Temple, The Age

"Cate Kennedy is a brilliant storyteller. She possesses the power to find in ordinary lives their poetic and mythic dimensions and to remind us that vernacular speech and everyday experiences betoken the tender mysteries that lie beneath family life."--Gail Jones

"The World Beneath is pitch perfect, an exquisite story of an estranged middle-aged couple and their alluring, disenchanted daughter, of a family in wilderness. Cate Kennedy inhabits these characters so sensually and truly, exploring souls that feel like our own. If she doesn't touch your heart, it may be you don't have one."--David Francis, author of Stray Dog Winter

"Written in precise and singing prose, [Cate Kennedy's] powerful first novel begins with three unlikable characters and blossoms into a work of mythic depth, lyrical description and gripping suspense."--Adelaide Advertiser

"Cate Kennedy's ironic humor nails out-of-touch grandparents, flailing Baby Boomers and tech-head adolescents. The World Beneath is a treasure of a first novel by a prize-winning short story writer and poet. This is Australia calling. I loved it."--Good Reading Magazine (Five Stars — 'Outstanding')

"A stunning book with a heart-stopping climax."--Woman's Day (Read of the Week)

"When the inner lives of ordinary people are made gripping and moving and enlightening, then you know you are in the hands of a great storyteller."--Sunday Mail/Sunday Telegraph

"The World Beneath displays all the hallmarks of the short-story writer's art; acute observation and concise execution."--Courier Mail

"Vivid and robust realism shading occasionally into satire, full of humour and drama, told through different and conflicting points of view ... In some ways it's reminiscent of Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap: an unsentimental, beady eyed look at contemporary Australian middle age and its treatment of its children."--Australian Literary Review

"This is a thought-provoking journey into contemporary Australia; an impressive debut novel."--Australian Book Review

"Kennedy has delivered an outstanding story."--Notebook Magazine (Pick of the Month)

"The World Beneath is an intelligent, equivocal, unusual and often amusing novel, one that comprehends the comfort of stereotypes and pushes beyond them, one that, in the words of its epigraph from Turgenev, sees that "the heart of another is a dark forest"."--Sydney Morning Herald

"The World Beneath is a rare combination of a pacy, gripping plot with very real characters and spare, elegant writing. Beautifully observed, Kennedy's novel is painfully honest about the ways in which family members hurt — and heal — each other."-- Who Magazine (Four stars)

"The World Beneath is the first novel by Cate Kennedy, often cited as Australia's queen of the short story. In the longer format Kennedy doesn't disappoint, delivering her characters with unnerving accuracy — the disdain of a teenager, the searing frustration of a man whose life has passed him by — while the Tasmanian wilderness looms as vividly as anyone else on the page."--Time Out Sydney

"The vast terrain of relationships and family ties proves to be as much uncharted territory as the Tasmanian wilderness that Cate Kennedy describes with such stunning clarity. Here, ordinary lives are caught in a compelling story that grips tight until its exhilarating end. She exposes the perilous gap between ideal and delusion, between noble aspiration and mere ambition, against a mighty landscape that remains unpredictable despite the reverence it receives. I read the final third with a sense of thrilling fear, for the characters' plights, for the hazards created by both their actual and emotional insecurity."--Debra Adelaide, author of The Household Guide to Dying

"We set off at a cracking pace deep into the wilderness of family relationships, confronting parenthood, middle age and the whole business of being an adult. We come out of the Tasmanian rainforest exhilarated that we made the journey, marvelling all the while at Cate Kennedy's masterly storytelling."--Hannie Rayson

"A riveting family drama played out in Tasmania's wilderness. Kennedy has made a seamless transition from award-winning short story writer to breathtaking novelist."--Mandy Sayer

"The World Beneath is an intelligent modern Australian novel, displaying that fine eye for unexpected humour and everyday tragedies that made Kennedy’s stories so appealing."--Bookseller & Publisher (4 stars) (Australia)

Library Journal
In a small Australian town, Sandy muddles through life as an unemployed single mother pining for the heady days of her activist youth. Sandy frequently reminisces about her role in a famous 1980s environmental protest in Tasmania. Sophie, her troubled teenager, listens grudgingly because her mother's stories are a link to her estranged father, Rich, who met Sandy there. Unexpectedly, Rich invites Sophie to go bushwalking in Tasmania, and Sandy's worst fears are realized when the father-daughter trek goes dangerously wrong. Alternately narrated by an unflinching, angry Sophie and her hapless parents, this polished novel from Australian poet and short story writer Kennedy (Dark Roots) evokes a more lyrical version of Jodi Picoult. Kennedy particularly shines in her portrayal of the rocky relationship between Sandy and Sophie, hitting the reader with raw, heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious prose. Occasionally the narrative becomes bogged down by lengthy stream-of-consciousness paragraphs, but this is a minor flaw in what is otherwise a wise and graceful debut novel. VERDICT Sure to be a hit with fans of contemporary social fiction; Kennedy is an author to watch.—Kelsy Peterson, Prairie Village, KS
Kirkus Reviews

In this debut novel from Australian Kennedy (Dark Roots, 2008, etc.), a father takes his estranged daughter on a trek through the Tasmanian wilderness that proves spiritually, mentally and physically grueling, and not just for them.

Rich and Sandy met protesting the Franklin River Blockade, one of the most successful environmental protests in Australian history. Their marriage didn't last. Now their daughter Sophie has become a skinny, goth teen exasperated with her pot-smoking, New-Agey mother's nostalgia for her past activism. Having pursued nature photography in all corners of the globe, chased women to no real effect and now working as a TV video editor, Rich decides to reconnect with his daughter. What better way than to hike the wilderness he and his ex worked to save? Rich assumes, as only the absent father of a difficult teen could, that Sophie will be impressed. Out of defiance of her mother, Sophie agrees to go and Sandy reluctantly lets her. For distraction, Sandy takes off on a retreat to find her inner goddess. The hike is difficult, especially when Rich's new, unbroken-in boots begin to chafe. While Rich hobbles through miles of wilderness trying to impress his cynical daughter, Sandyhilariously searches for answers in meditation sessions and sweat lodges, where she instead encounters the disembodied voice of her disapproving mother. Rich must come to terms with the reality that he's not the outdoorsman—or, for that matter, the people person—he thought he was, a lesson that leads to potential catastrophe. Kennedy illustrates her characters' vulnerabilities through a series of power plays and dramatic reversals—Rich attempts to cut the trip short, but Sophie, with a contrary, stubborn nature not unlike her parents', insists they continue. Locked in mutual antipathy broken by bursts of sympathy, father and daughter move into increasingly dangerous territory.

An intricately written novel with an ironic eye for modern vulnerability in the face of a primordial wilderness.

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
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Barnes & Noble
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Cate Kennedy’s short story collection Dark Roots, was shortlisted for the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal and first serialized in The New Yorker. She lives in Victoria, Australia.

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The World Beneath 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
TiredofGarbage More than 1 year ago
I picked this up the same day as Bradford Morrow's great book, "The Diviner's Tale." Sadly, The World Beneath is not a good read. Only one of the characters is believable - Rich, the absentee dad. In his sections, the book comes to life. But the other characters are just too cliched, and the book never really takes off. Lots of strain evident in writing it, but no real lift to the reader in reading it. Try the Morrow book instead for a real reader's treat. "The Diviner's Tale" is a similar story to this one - an abandoned mother raising teen(s) - but the Morrow book is a well written classic, sadly The World Beneath is not in its league at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TEST NOOKUSER More than 1 year ago
best eva