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The Hands

An Australian pastoral

Stephen Orr

The Hands
He didn't look like he could jump a bull, but she knew he could. It was all in the hands, he'd often explain. The will. The bloody mindedness.

On a cattle station that stretches beyond the horizon, seven people are trapped by their history and the need to make a living. Trevor Wilkie, the good father, holds it all together, promising his sons a future he no longer believes in himself. The boys, free to roam the world's biggest backyard, have nowhere to go.

Trevor's father, Murray, is the keeper of stories and the holder of the deed. Murray has no intention of giving up what his forefathers created. But the drought is winning. The cattle are ribs. The bills keep coming. And one day, on the way to town, an accident changes everything.

Longlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award

Praise for The Hands
'Orr's ability to capture characters and the way they interact with each other is truly impressive. The uneasy relationship between Trevor and his unbending father, the love and loyalty between Aiden and Harry that lies behind the teasing and bickering, Trevor's conversations with his sons. Itís pretty darn perfect.' - Sue Terry, Whispering Gums

'Every now and then I pick up a book and within a matter of pages - or perhaps sentences - I know this is exactly the right kind of book for me. Thatís how I felt when I started reading Stephen Orrís The Hands ... Orr writes with a skilful lightness of touch, punctuating his quietly subdued prose with understated humour and restrained emotion ... There was something about this book - the all-encompassing portrait of one family living in rural isolation - that transfixed me from start to finish, almost as if I had accompanied them on this emotional journey, perhaps sitting in the farm truck as it made its rounds fixing fences or checking on cattle.' - Kim Forrester, Reading Matters

'The Hands has the scope of a Greek tragedy - not only in its focus on the violence underlying familial relationships. Ineluctable fate seems to press on a family forced into painful reflection. The encroaching desert is, like the Greek Moirai, remorseless: "It didn't like him, it didn't hate him; it refused to know anyone or anything." Catharsis is evoked, but its form is not predictable. Orr is a restrained writer when it counts.' - Josephine Taylor, Australian Book Review

'The Hands is a raw, honest and absorbing portrait of pastoral life from Orr ... he eloquently captures the practical trials and emotional angst experienced by farmers torn between a generations-long connection to country and the reality of a fragile future dependent on nature's whims. The pastoral portrait he paints is so vivid you can almost taste the suffocating dust ... A true Australian story - and one well worth reading.' - Suzie Keen, InDaily

'The triumphant culmination of a five-book fascination with the dynamics of (family) groups as they function in extreme and often liminal situations ... Orr slides seamlessly in and out of his different characters' heads ... always moving the story efficiently along ... and always making the reader effortlessly, endlessly, insistently aware of the breadth and rigour of the landscape, the dominance and dryness.' - Katharine England, Advertiser

'There are many threads to this novel: the lasting impact of WW1 on ensuing generations; secrets and sacrifices; shame and unspoken grief. But the loneliness of a man in despair makes him very vulnerable in a place where just walking out into nothingness is a perilous option, and The Hands makes real the plight of many farming families today ... This is my fourth novel by Stephen Orr, and I think it's the best one yet.' - Lisa Hill, ANZLitlovers LitBlog

'Orr creates great atmosphere in the setting and portrays each character beautifully.' - Fotini Dangiris, Good Reading

'This is a realistic portrayal of family life and the events which befall this group are entirely authentic in the sense that they happen with similar measure and frequency to everyday people. Orr's depiction of rural life and farming practices is refreshing as he avoids romantic and lazy stereotypes, instead drawing recognisable people who express credible opinions with familiar dialogue.' - Rob Welsh, ReadPlus

'The Hands cuts to the core of life on the parched land of Australia's interior ... A novel that will have readers in awe of how anyone can survive "out there", let alone make a living.' - The Senior

'Every now and then you open a book that is so richly evocative, so poignant and haunting that the characters leach into your subconscious and you are caught in an intricately spun web of emotion, scent and feeling ... Stephen Orr is a wonderful discovery and his latest novel The Hands one of my top reads of 2015. Highly recommended.' - Annette Marfording, Belligen Community Radio

'This is at times a heartbreaking read, but the story is told with elegant, beautiful prose ... It is hard not to be drawn into this familyís life.' - Fiona Myers, Weekly Times

'A story well told.' - Marie, The Big Book Club

'The book is far from a rural romance, harking back to an older fiercer Australian tradition of depicting the unforgiving nature of life on the land ... Within the narrative is of no-nonsense prose is a carefully constructed tension between tradition and the need to move on, between the hopes of varying generations, and between differing ideas of where home and happiness can be found.' - Nick Mattiske, Signs of the Times

'The Hands is also a remarkable novel about the difficulties to be a farmer. The Wilkies' problems are set in Australia but in France too, it's complicated to live from the land. Itís hard work and the market prices are so low that the farmers barely scrape by. In our Western world, we give more money to the people who take care of our money than to the ones who produce our food. What does it say about us and our values?' - Emma, Book Around the Corner

Stephen Orr is the author of five previous novels. He contributes essays and features to several publications. A fascination with the dynamics of families and small communities pervades his fiction and non-fiction. Stephen Orr lives in Adelaide.

View an extract
Format Paperback
Size 210 x 135 mm
ISBN 9781743053430
Extent 368 pages
Price: AU$29.95 including GST
Quantity Out of stock