Lenny Marks gets away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne
The blurb says this is a book you will devour! (Their exclamation mark.) I usually take blurbs with a grain of salt, however, in this instance, it speaks the truth! (My exclamation mark.) I really did devour this book.
Lenny Marks is thirty-seven. Her existence ‘was many things: simple, predictable and uneventful. It had taken considerable effort and time to get to this point and she was not planning on disrupting the perfectly good order of things’. She teaches at the local primary school and then returns to the sanctuary of her Tree House and the company of Friends repeats and solo scrabble games. Until she receives a letter from the Adult Parole Board of Victoria. Suddenly Lenny’s world begins to unravel.
When I began this book, I thought it was going to be yet another book about a quirky character somewhere on the spectrum, similar to Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant or Simsion’s Don Tillman of The Rosie Project. But it didn’t take me long to realise that Lenny’s quirkiness and social unawareness is due to trauma, specifically childhood trauma. She refers to herself as a ‘broken girl’. In flashback chapters, we are with eleven year old Lenny as she tries to survive in a home dominated by her step-father’s violence. When she hears his name spoken, it’s ‘like touching a battery to the tip of her tongue’.
Parts of this book are tough to read and could be triggering for anyone who is a survivor of childhood abuse. However, Mayne has used a gentle hand and tempers these dark flashbacks with Lenny’s dawning awareness that perhaps she’s not to blame for her mother’s disappearance, and that she is, in fact, loveable.
It’s hard to believe this is Kerryn Mayne’s first novel. The pace is spot on, and the balance of dark and charm is perfect. It truly is a stunning debut novel.