Travelling in a Strange Land


Travelling in a Strange Land

David Park

The perils of driving through snow provide an extended metaphor for the perils of parenthood in this deft and poetic narrative. There is simply no obvious reason why traction starts to be lost and it is impossible to predict, even with all the rational laws of physics, what direction a skid will take. The narrative mood is carried by the first person voice that moves through time and memory as the journey unfolds. The closer the object of the journey becomes the more circuitous the digressions to the past become. Comfort is stripped away, even with all the preparations for the journey and the things a father thought he needed, the provisions cannot be reached when they are desired.

The reader’s sympathy stays with the main character, yet there is at times an unanswered sense of intrigue about the motivation for the behaviour of the son. This sense though is consistent with the central theme of the impossibility of seeing all and knowing all. In fact, it is more likely that the more careful the watching, the more focused the lens, the less clear things will become. More snow will fall. The crisp outlines blur the more they are stared into. The comfort of cold, its power to numb, to ease swelling, to disperse colour, to hide the vigour of life in comparison to death is explored. Death and cold, defining each other and yet distinct. One is the end, the other not necessarily so.

Park handles the intensity of grief by placing it as a vermillion thumbprint at the end of a canvas of white and grey. He covers his tracks carefully and the reader is brought into a place of aloneness that exists within the mundane and unremarkable.

This might be the journey anyone takes.

Travelling in a Strange Land, David Park, book review Gabrielle Barnby