James wakes weeping each morning, dreading the pressures of a long and grueling work day ahead, and Freya is struggling with her foundering real estate career.
Global recession is biting in Australia, and the Archers are afraid.
In a desperate bid for happiness and security they shed the fragile trappings of success and cruise over into the slow lane to take an unmapped turn-off on a country road and live off the land in a remote old farmhouse on the peaceful southern island of Tasmania.
But is this an end to their old misery or the beginning of an even greater one?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reading a book by Magdalena Ball is a wonderfully peculiar experience. One moment, you¿re sitting innocently in your chair with your Kindle, and the next minute you are whisked inside the brains and bodies of her characters, intimately connected with their soaring spirits or their angst. I¿ve read Ms. Ball¿s books before, and have been enthralled by them. SLEEP BEFORE EVENING was the first novel I read, and I was absorbed by the well-told story. I¿ve read her poetry, and been impressed with the way she weaves love and science and the wonder of the universe into her work without sounding pretentious or sappy. BLACK COW, her new release, is a literary novel that breaks through to new levels, immersing her readers into the lives of an Australian family in very serious trouble. The problems don¿t show on the outside, but they¿re deeply ingrained in the fabric of the family, in their souls, and in their hearts. The metamorphosis of this very authentic family hurts, is hard-earned, and will make you beg for resolution. It¿s not an unpleasant experience¿on the contrary¿but it feels so real that the reader will absorb Ms. Ball¿s characters¿ pain like litmus paper soaks up water. I literally had to put the book down and stop for a while, because the stress James and Freya experienced in their intensely acquisitive world felt so uncomfortable that I thought my own blood pressure was spiking. I ached for them to stop the madness, to look at each other and help each other, and to start thinking about what matters most in life. Not only do husband and wife James and Freya, or their children Cameron and Dylan jump off the pages, but their inner thoughts and dialogue ring true. Written in third person POV, the reader moves effortlessly from mother to father, to anorexic daughter to the love-starved son. It feels natural and not forced, which is often a hard situation for 3rd person writers to avoid. See this segment from the daughter¿s point of view just after her grandmother passed:"Cameron began to cry, so silently that it was almost not a cry at all, just falling rain on three generations of women through the memories of past, the unreliability of the present and the non-existent future. In the cooling entropy of now, she felt a deep connection with the woman who appeared on the page before her, and then jerked her head up, shocked by the snapping of the string. It was as if a helix had unwound inside her. Suddenly the room seemed intensely empty and looking at the picture, Cameron knew that her grandmother was dead."What resonated most with me were the epic truths behind the story. I often lament today¿s society where kids rarely play outdoors just for fun, where their lives are over-organized with everyone hurrying from one activity to another, where every room in the house has a television/DVD player and/or cable box, where each parent has a nice new car, where even children have iPods or iPhones or iPads, where families go on lavish vacations, where shopping is forever for new items (God forbid people are seen near a Salvation Army or Goodwill store, where so many good deals are to be had!), where meals are mostly takeout or quick-fix versions because both parents have to work to help pay for all the prior junk, and where there are few if any slow-cooked meals in anyone¿s lives¿ What happened to one parent being home, making real mashed potatoes, cooking banana bread, or simmering a stew all day long? What happened to the freedom of coming home from school, getting hugs from mom or dad, finishing up homework, and running outside to simply play? What happened to picking up a stick to sword fight, to digging in big piles of dirt, to jumping in mile-high mountains of leaves? What happened was people wanting too much stuff, like Freya¿s family in BLACK COW. What happened was the stuff growing and building to such an insane level that both parents ¿have¿ to work to sustain it. This vicious cycle is intimately depicted in BLACK COW, and a
Magdalena ball has penned a novel based on a modern family’s journey. Freya and James along with their teenage children, Cameron and Dylan, find themselves in a whirlpool of stress. Freya is struggling in her role as a real estate agent. She wishes that life could be less stressful but is reluctant to trade life’s luxuries for peace of mind. Her husband James is a workaholic who never lets up on himself. James is the CEO of the firm he has devoted his life to. His day is a never ending round of meetings and decisions. At home he can’t turn his adrenalin rush off and seeks solace in alcohol instead of Freya. Fourteen year old Cameron thinks her parents are living on another planet. She isolates herself from the family and seeks solace in self-abuse. Moody, picky with her food and thinking no one understands her, presents herself to the world as a gothic Joan of Arc. Dylan is in his sixteenth year and in love with his guitar. The instrument is almost a physical part of him. He takes it everywhere with him and even plays it in the school corridors, as well as carrying out other misdemeanors. Financial burdens of a mortgage, private school expenses, car repayments and the kids’ appetites for the latest electronic gadgets never go away. Freya and James feel like they are drowning in the suburban competition to keep one step ahead of liquidity. Heaped upon the monetary strains are the social issues each member of the family faces. They are all succumbing to the tempest that is modern life and none of them are happy. Freya toys with the idea of moving to Tasmania as a way of starting a new and less stressful life. After a short holiday on the apple isle James takes a radical step. He purchases a farm without any consultation with other family members. His decision sparks off a chain of events that has dire consequences for all family members. They discover that there is another life in a world outside of Sydney. One that on the surface may seem simplistic and stress free, but underneath it can only be what they are prepared to make of it. The author uses a simple writing style to weave a tale based on the complexities of modern living. She takes the reader on a journey many will recognize themselves taking part in. Black Cow shows how the darker side of human nature can be cured with love and understanding. I found the story held my interest from beginning to end. The plight of the characters in a majority of the scenes was relevant to what has happened so far in my own life. I am sure most readers of this book will feel the same way. Black Cow is a book that I highly recommend that lovers of a tale well told read.