November 21, 2022
The Other Side of Beautiful
I woke up in the night with a head full of worries, unable to get back to sleep. That’s when I got up and started reading ‘The Other Side of Beautiful’ and it was the perfect antidote. The novel begins with a woman having to flee her burning house, staying overnight in the house of her ex-husband and his reluctant partner, before stumbling upon a van that ends up being her home for the next week as she travels up the centre of Australia.
As she travels, we learn more about the events that triggered a spiral of anxiety attacks and led to her being a prisoner in her own home, unable to leave for two years. It all makes a lot of sense, and it’s not done yet, with one of those events continuing to confront her on the journey, as well as waiting for her at the other end of it.
Along the way through Australia’s heartland the cortisol in her bloodstream has a chance to subside. The camaraderie on the road, with so few places to stop, means she keeps meeting up with a few of her fellow travellers, especially the grey nomads with signs on their campervans.
It’s a breezy book with a serious centre, easy to read but unflinching in its gaze on the impact of anxiety on Mercy Blain’s life.
I love the map at the beginning of the book, which readers can use to track Mercy’s progress from Adelaide to Darwin, and the places she stays at along the way. I returned to this many times, and it reminded me of Millie Molly Mandy books as a kid, as well as giving me a sense of the country she was travelling through.