My brother's keeper
The thesis My Brother’s Keeper is a novel about the intersecting lives of three young Australians, trying to find their way in the world against a backdrop of the Vietnam War and small town cultural stereotypes. Rose is a teenage mother. She planned to leave Broken River to attend university but her pregnancy means this has been all but forgotten. A collection of classic novels is the only way she keeps a tenuous hold on her dreams. Hers is a life of solitude, both enforced upon her by the isolated location where she lives, and also psychological, as she turns her back on those who rejected her when her pregnancy became apparent. She becomes financially and psychologically dependant on Connor, her husband. Connor works at the local sugar mill. Like Rose he did not plan to be a parent at such a young age and sees his future as a life of drudgery, working 10 hour shifts at the mill for a minimal wage and coming home to raise a family. He feels trapped and longs for an escape, dreaming of surfing away from it all. Connor’s twin brother Regan has, it would seem, escaped. After being expelled from school he goes to Sydney, and finds work as an errand boy for shady property developer Frank Sheldon. Regan soon finds himself moving ahead in Sheldon’s organisation, with the trapping to show for it. The conscription ballot is to prove a turning point for all three characters. Regan is drafted, but Connor, seeing an opportunity to escape, offers to take his place, enabling Regan to stay in Sydney and continue building his capital. Connor’s decision shatters Rose’s world, leaving her alone, and ultimately venerable to the unhealthy interest that Regan has in her. Then both Regan and Connor find that the escape from Broken River they have chosen for themselves is an illusion. Connor is exposed to the horror of war and is shot and seriously injured. His scars run deeper and her returns from Vietnam a changed man. Regan’s loss of a bag containing money that Frank Sheldon destined for a corrupt council official shows how fragile his escape is, and he finds himself on the run, his life threatened. Both men come back to Broken River, back to Rose, asking her to decide between them, or for herself. The Exegesis Between Thorns examines the themes of Cultural Stereotyping, the Divisiveness of War, Vietnam War metanarratives and ideas surrounding Individualisation and Actualization. I also discuss technical and stylistic challenges that I encountered in the writing of My Brother’s Keeper, and how I worked to overcome these challenges, as well as major influences on my writing and research undertaking to underpin my work.