Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice

I am drawn to all things Australian. I heard about this book years ago and asked my mother to track it down. It's an odd little story. I'm not sure why it was published as a stand-alone and not as a novella in a collection of short stories, but it was. By itself, it is powerful, though.

Kellyanne has two imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan. Everyone in their small opal-mining town in the Outback indulges her, giving her three lollipops instead of one, so Pobby and Dingan can each have one, too. Her brother, Ashmol, is frustrated that Kellyanne won't let go of these silly childish ideas, but it doesn't bother him much. His father's mine doesn't produce much, his parents fight a lot, and his mother wants to go back to England and stop working in the local grocery checkout. But one day, Pobby and Dingan disappear. Then Kellyanne takes to her bed, stops eating, and begin wasting away from depression. Ashmol organizes the entire town to look for Pobby and Dingan, which he thinks will make Kellyanne better.

The story is sad. I'm not sure if it's meant to be an allegory. Or if the invisible friends are really real. It leaves a lot up in the air and would  be good for discussion. Ashmol feels like a real boy, but as our narrator we see everything through his eyes and it's effective at also giving us an idea of his parents' bad relationship, the ludicrous hopelessness of their situation with his father literally hoping to strike it rich, and yet the hope and friendship shown by all the townspeople toward Kellyanne. This book still has me thinking about it, a couple of days later.

I was given this book as a gift by my mother.

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