Iris Dancy’s free-spirited mum has left for Tunisia, her dad’s rarely sober and her brother’s determined to fight anyone with a pair of fists.
When a family of travellers move into the overgrown paddock overnight, her dad looks set to finally lose it. Gypsies are parasites he says, but Iris is intrigued. As her dad plans to evict the travelling family, Iris makes friends with their teenage son. Trick Deran is a bare knuckle boxer who says he’s done with fighting, but is he telling the truth?
When tools go missing from the shed, the travellers are the first suspects. Iris’s brother, Sam, warns her to stay away from Trick; he’s dangerous, but Iris can no longer blindly follow her brother’s advice. He’s got secrets of his own, and she’s not sure he can be trusted himself.
Infinite Sky is a family story about betrayal and loyalty, and love.
Having seen for myself the destructive and messy after effects of traveller camps I was hesitant to read Infinite Sky. I didn’t want to let my feelings get in the way of reading and reviewing the book. But that’s the thing with good stories – you don’t just see something or someone from a distance, where it’s easier to make snap decisions and judgements. Instead you delve into people’s lives and see why they are the way they are, with all their happiness, hurt and emotional scarring.
A big underlying theme of the story was prejudice. One day this travelling family turn up on the paddock behind Iris’ family home. I could completely understand why her dad was furious. Nappies, tyres and rubbish started filling the paddock, and you just knew it would be left behind for someone else to clean up. And I admit, I hated that the travelling family didn’t care about littering, trespassing and lying. But through Iris’ eyes, and her growing curiosity and fondness for the family, especially for Trick, I understood why she was drawn to their family unity and freedom.
Iris was a wonderful girl. On the verge of becoming a young woman she still held onto her sense of self, adventure and being carefree. She didn’t cover herself in makeup or fashionable clothes, and I liked that she wasn’t perfectly manicured and preened. She would run around the fields and enjoy nature and life. She was such a beautiful individual, stuck in a horrible situation. And for that I’m sorry to say I resented her mother.
Another big theme was loyalty versus love. After befriending the lovely Trick, Iris ended up in this horrible position stuck in the middle between her brother and Trick. Her brother Sam was obviously deeply affected by their mother leaving and abandoning him, and after falling in with a bad crowd, his anger towards his mother started seeping out towards the travellers and Trick. It was sad to see the change in him, especially as Trick was a really lovely, caring and considerate young boy. Both boys seemed to find themselves in situations that they didn’t necessarily want to be in, and poor Iris felt like she was betraying her family by being with Trick.
I loved C.J.’s writing. The story was full of those little details and thoughts that make a story feel so colourful and real. You got right under Iris’ skin to understand what was going on her in life and in her mind. And she didn’t have the easiest life, trying to cope with her mother leaving her and her brother behind to travel around Tunisia and rediscover herself. Add this to her father’s drinking and the travellers that have set up camp in the paddock by their house, and you can imagine what might ensue. The story was infused with feelings of peacefulness and bliss that you get on a perfect clear blue sky kind of summer day, but also tension, anger, confusion, guilt and pain. The story wasn’t what I expected; it was so much more, so much better, full of heartbreak and happiness.
Infinite Sky is an emotional rollercoaster ride of love, hate, loyalty and prejudice. A quick summer must-read.
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