Book Review: Sally Piper’s The Geography of Friendship proves some journeys require walking the same path again

The Geography of Friendship, the second novel from author Sally Piper, tells of the journey of three young girls, Samantha, Lisa and Nicole, who set out on an adventurous five-day hike as teenagers. Three young girls who found and befriended each other at school, because no one else had, or would.

Their frightening adventure starts in a rural carpark and develops and descends from there. The trek is presented through the thoughts and memories of the three girls, showing the reader each of the girls’ perceptions of the hike as it unfolds. It is not only the tough terrain, placing an almost insurmountable pressure on the weakest of the three, that threatens to force these girls apart. Instead, they discover they aren’t alone in the bush. With the stakes growing higher and higher, the reader is left wondering just how one man can impact the lives of the three girls.

Cut to twenty years the later, the girls, now women in their forties reunite and together try to face again the events of twenty years earlier. Can hiking the same trail twenty years later help bring some release? Do some journeys require walking the same path again?

This new five-day hike takes the women through the same remote landscape from all those years ago. But, instead of finding the landscape scarred, or some sign of their previous hike and the events that surrounded it, they discover that only memories remain. Instead, of the scars they have imagined, or possibly hoped to find, the bush thrives.

All three women have a story to tell. All three are equally as haunted about the events from twenty years ago. Flitting between the past and present, the book takes the reader on a journey from that frightening first hike, through to the novel’s bittersweet ending. It is a novel told through the memories and thoughts of the three protagonists, showing them as teenagers, adults, and their lives in between.

Piper has written a moving tale, one that allows you to reflect too on your own past, the mistakes you may have made, and perhaps friendships long gone. The Geography of Friendship, is a beautifully written novel, with a powerful understanding and portrayal of friendship between girls and women. Piper’s presentation of the Australian bush is also particularly strong, with her descriptions of the foliage and the terrain all worded to place the reader in the midst of it all. As the story of those earlier years unfold, you will at times find yourself gripped to your chair, anxious to know what happened to those adventurous young women.

The Geography of Friendship is Sally Piper’s second novel. Her first, Grace’s Table (2014), was shortlisted for the 2011 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in the Emerging Queensland Author category, whilst in 2013 she was also awarded a Varuna Publishing Fellowship for her manuscript.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Geography of Friendship is available now through University of Queensland Press (UQP) for a RRP of AU$29.95.

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Lyn Harder

I'm mad about going to great gigs, travelling around Australia and reading a good book. I adore animals, catching up with friends and family and I think Australia is the best country on earth!