First Line: The lift is lined with mirrors, with many Cassies.
Cassie is ready to settle down and start raising a family. Her boyfriend Graham isn't. When Cassie reads a newspaper ad seeking a couple to manage a farm in western Australia for a year, she thinks it's the perfect opportunity to nudge her dreams onto the path of coming true. She applies, and they get the job.
But from the very beginning the job isn't what they expected. Woolagong is a decrepit old sheep station in the remote outback. They have to depend on a neighbor to deliver groceries and mail. There's no telephone, no internet, no radio. They have to get water from a pump, and since there's no air conditioning, the unrelenting heat saps bodies accustomed to a much gentler English climate. Their employers, Larry and Mara, live a very quiet life filled with some rather peculiar habits. The heat, being cut off from the outside world, and the unsettling feeling that they're being watched are stretching the couple's nerves to the breaking point.
The remote outback of Australia is a perfect setting for this novel of disquiet and dread. So many of the things that make this region uniquely beautiful are the exact same things that prey on Cassie's and Graham's minds-- poisonous creatures that can be hiding in any nook or cranny, the harsh red rocks and soil that cover everything in layers of dust, the towering gum trees that never seem to provide shade. The heat alone is almost enough to drive them mad because there never seems to be enough water to bathe properly. They never feel clean or cool.
Add to the setting a cast of characters guaranteed to make you nervous. The man who makes grocery deliveries sometimes seems to be a friend, but at other times, he feels more like a foe. Larry, always cool and immaculately turned out, is a superior sort who seems to relish watching Cassie and Graham stumble as they try to acclimate themselves. Larry's wife Mara seems to have some sort of mysterious mental problem and must be kept medicated most of the time. Everything seems determined to keep Cassie and Graham off balance and unsure of themselves.
I didn't really find the storyline surprising, but the book is meticulously plotted and very adept at keeping the reader's sense of unease and dread simmering. Although I did figure out almost everything that was going on, the process of deduction was an enjoyable one albeit detrimental to my opinion of the English couple.
In many ways, As Far As You Can Go can also be considered a character study of Cassie and Graham-- two rather spoiled and self-centered people who are thrown in a situation that is completely beyond anything they could imagine in their wildest dreams. Their strengths and weaknesses are laid bare as they gradually uncover the truth about what's happening at Woolagong, and the story isn't neatly tied up with a little bow at the end. No, at the book's conclusion, the author allows us to speculate on what the future holds for Cassie and Graham-- and I enjoyed letting my imagination fill in the blanks.
As Far As You Can Go by Lesley Glaister
Open Road Media © 2014
eBook, 328 pages
Source: Net Galley