Review: Gravity is The Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty

on Australian, Adult Fiction
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Gravity Is The Thing - Jaclyn Moriarty
Published by Pan Macmillan
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Abigail Sorensen has spent her life trying to unwrap the events of 1990.

It was the year she started receiving random chapters from a self-help book called The Guidebook in the post.

It was also the year Robert, her brother, disappeared on the eve of her sixteenth birthday.

She believes the absurdity of The Guidebook and the mystery of her brother's disappearance must be connected.

Now thirty-five, owner of The Happiness Café and mother of four-year-old Oscar, Abigail has been invited to learn the truth behind The Guidebook at an all-expenses-paid retreat.

What she finds will be unexpected, life-affirming, and heartbreaking.

A story with extraordinary heart, warmth and wisdom.

It is in no way surprising that reading this novel was a joy and a delight - Jaclyn Moriarty wrote it. Not having her way with words - I usually struggle to find words that encapsulate the full experience of reading her writing. A string of adjectives can only describe imperfectly how excellent Gravity is the Thing is: beautiful, uplifting, clever, incredible, heart-breaking, affirming, hilarious, genuine and truly delightful. I could write an essay (or perhaps a garbled, gushing tangle of many, many words) about how much I love Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing style, but I will refrain and review this specific book.

Gravity is the Thing is Jaclyn Moriarty’s first adult novel. The connecting thread of the plot is The Guidebook: since she was a teenager, Abigail has been receiving chapters of this self-help book and following the authors’ instructions (such as taking an Italian cooking class). In response to an intriguing invitation, at age thirty-five, she heads to Flinders Island off the coast of Tasmania to a retreat to discover the truth behind that book. The story unravels from there.

I loved the familiarity of the settings and how each scene was vividly placed. Reading descriptions of places I knew well felt particularly immediate, but this wasn’t limited to the scenes in Sydney’s Inner West. And despite never having been to Flinders Island, I did have an emotional recognition moment when I realised the story started in Tasmania as well. It happens to me anytime Tassie is in a book.

Gravity is the Thing is full to the brim with fascinating characters. A few of my favourites were Abi’s staff at the Happiness Cafe and Lera the doctor. I also really liked Wilbur and the conscious absurdity of his actions. Every moment between Abigail and her son, Oliver, was exactly what interacting with a toddler is like and very endearing.

The story is meticulously crafted. Each chapter is hyper-focused on its moment, whether in the present or the past, often following Abi’s train of thought in minute detail. Interspersed, are extracts from The Guidebook expertly placed at key moments. The story winds through the points in Abigail’s life when she received these chapters and those moments are pieced together to understand who she is now.  These segments of Abigail’s story vary in size and are not chronological but, Moriarty’s deft hands build up small moments and fit them together to create a clear and poignant overall picture.

One of Jaclyn Moriarty’s great skills is pulling together segments of seemingly random or unconnected incidents and making meaning from every little detail. Each piece of information given the reader is significant to understanding the greater whole. The result is a totally original, enthralling story that navigates the strange whimsies of life in an intimate and moving way.

Gravity is the Thing will ring your heart out. You may cry because your heart breaks, but also from laughing at the absurd and mundane. It’s an incredibly special story, and I highly recommend reading it, even if it’s not the usual genre you read.

Find Jaclyn Moriarty online via her website or on social media: twitter or instagram @jaclynmoriarty (she's an excellent follow on both).

If you're interested in reading more Jaclyn Moriarty check out these posts:

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone (review)

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars (review)

Five Favourite Australian Authors (if you hadn't guessed, Jaclyn Moriarty is one)

or my post from way back when I first attended a Jaclyn Moriarty event - the launch of A Tangle of Gold (spoiler she was lovely, she still is even though now I am basically a book event stalker).