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Monday, February 2, 2015

Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing by Lisa Walker

Title:  Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing

Author: Lisa Walker
Publisher: 2nd February 2015 by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
ISBN: 9780857984401
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: women’s fiction, chick lit
My Rating: two and a half crowns


A delightfully funny and inspiring novel about a very modern pilgrimage, and one woman's chance to rediscover what she's lost.

'I watch the highway go by and ponder my situation. I am on the run from my husband's divorce lawyer, my mojo is still missing in action and my demon ex-lover is lurking . . . But, all things considered, my pilgrimage is going well . . .'

Arkie used to be a trendspotter, running a successful business advising companies on ‘the next big thing'. Until she lost her marriage and her mojo along with it.

Her eccentric new friend Haruko suggests a pilgrimage in Japan. But funds are tight, so instead Arkie's going on a very Australian trip, to all the ‘Big Things'.

With Haruko as her guide, magic is everywhere. A Buddha appears next to the Big Redback, the Big Macadamia rises from the jungle like a lost temple and inside the Big Shell she can hear a tinkling voice, reminding her of the child she never had.

As her improbable adventure unfolds, realisation dawns: could it be that, despite her celebrated foresight, Arkie's been missing what was right before her eyes?

My thoughts:

Lisa Walker invents her own style of surrealism (“I think surrealism is a ‘make your own fun’ kind of art form’ – Lisa Walker) in her latest novel. She brings together a pseudo Japanese ‘wanna’ be pilgrimage and evolves it into an adventure of discovery to some of Australia’s ‘big things’ (Big Pineapple, Big Cow, Big Macadamia, Big Shell, Big Redback Spider, to name but a few). Add in a twist of referencing to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for good measure and the result is surrealism for sure!

At times silly, at other times serious, this tale is such an eclectic mix of genres. And that, in my humble opinion, is its downfall. It’s a tough ask to pull off a number of genres in the one story.

Firstly, there is the good smattering of humour:

“Why do you need to go to Japan to discover yourself? I say. Can’t we Eat, Pray Love in Australia?”

Then at times, Walker goes off the tracks and becomes too casual and flippant, thus causing the reader to not fully embrace characters. For example at the beginning of the book with the lead character contemplating suicide:
“I can jump under one (train) any time I want”.

The reason I picked up this book in the first place, however, was the prospect of people rediscovering themselves:

“I am forty-one years old but perhaps it is possible … Can my life begin again?”

“If time was really as soft as a Camembert cheese, would I bend it back and do things differently now?”

This, I feel, should have been at the true heart of the tale and not lost among the range of genres.  For in essence, aren’t we all constantly searching to find that peaceful place within? So Walker was onto a good thing here with a strong message to be told. It was an easy style of writing in which to lose oneself and, realistically it captured what many of us face – sometimes the serious issues in life, sometimes just allowing yourself to laugh at life. The author has done her research into what a pilgrimage to Japanese temples (inclusive of fascinating Shinto Gods) would be like, which was a most interesting addition to the story. However, it was a long stretch to try and equate such sacredness to the agricultural ‘big things’ located throughout northern Australia – humorously or not. It might have started off easy at first, but making those essential links got harder as the story went on:

‘Ready for…. “ I realise I have no idea. ‘What is Buddhism actually about, Haruko?’
‘Just be kind to each other. Live in the moment. That is Buddhism,’ she says.
‘Well. That doesn’t sound too hard’.
‘Seems easy at first. Might get harder later.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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