It’s an intricately questionable, but not an entirely unfathomable dilemma; a stranger knocks on your door – with no prior warning – claiming to be a relative of yours. The question is, do you let them in, or turn them away?
This is the very conundrum our protagonist, Don Barlow, finds himself in, in the latest novel, “The Cuckoo’s Cry”, from Australian author and Associate Editor of ‘The Australian’ newspaper, Caroline Overington.
Don is a 69 year old man residing in a spacious house by the beach in Bondi, Sydney in early 2020. He bought the house for a ‘song’ ($10, 000) many years prior, but it is now worth close to $3 million. His wife, Pam, has passed away some twenty years earlier, and his daughter, Danielle, lives about three hours away from Bondi, near the village of Scone, in New South Wales.
Don, for the past 40 years, has indulged in his beloved daily rituals of a morning walk and swim, a visit to the newsagent to collect the daily newspaper and a weekly lotto ticket, followed by an afternoon of watching the people walk by in Mitchell Street, where he lives, and having his dinner on his lap while watching TV at night.
One night, approaching 8pm, Don hears a knock on the door, and opens to find on his doorstep a pretty nineteen year old girl called Morgan, who is audaciously claiming to be his granddaughter, and that she is in “trouble.”
We, as readers, soon learn that Don, as a nineteen year old, got a sixteen year old girl, Robyn, pregnant.
Robyn subsequently gave birth and named the baby Paul, before relinquishing him for adoption. Morgan says she is Paul’s daughter.
Don, being a kind and generous soul, invites Morgan inside, and after a ‘chat’ with her, offers for her to stay. The twist is that this takes place in the very beginning of the Corona Virus crisis in Sydney and New South Wales (and indeed Australia and the world), and Morgan has nowhere else to go. Don feels obliged, particularly with Morgan being ‘family’, to offer for Morgan to live with him ‘as long as she needs’.
When Danielle ‘gets wind’ of the fact that her father has let a basic stranger reside with him indefinitely, she begins to worry and fret relentlessly that Morgan’s intentions may not be as noble as Morgan is leading Don to believe. Danielle is vehemently distrustful of Morgan from the ‘get go’, and confides in her husband, Jackson, her concerns about Morgan. Danielle is outraged when Jackson drives to Bondi to ‘check on’ Don, and Morgan will not allow him in the house, as she says he is “sleeping”.
Don wholeheartedly believes that Morgan is a sweet family member – or is she? And additionally, who is the mysterious person called Bailey who Morgan is continually texting?
“The Cuckoo’s Cry” stridently explores themes of family dynamics and trust in an easy-to-read format. Caroline Overington writes with deftly keen observational skills and phenomenal intelligence. The twists in this novel are many, and most I didn’t see coming. I recommend “The Cuckoo’s Cry” for anyone wanting a psychological thriller founded in the Australian psyche in the era of the Corona Virus.