Red Dirt by E.M. Reapy
Hopper, Fiona and Murph are members of the shameful, coercive migration of Irish young people to Australia after the collapse of the Celtic (Papier Mâché) Tiger.
For those of you unfamiliar with said circumstances, I will summarize. A shower of greedy bastards destroyed the economy of the entire island of Ireland, and pretty much got away with it.
I know that other nations, such as the US, were also hit hard during the crash, but Ireland suffered a disproportionate level of economic hardship, that was the worst experienced since the dark days of the Famine, more than 150 years previous.
Our country still hasn’t recovered, as multitudes continue to live a hand-to-mouth existence, yet too proud to admit that times are as tough as they are. Shame keeps them silent, as those responsible – the bankers, the developers, the contractors, the investors, the church hierarchy and, of course, the politicians – live comfortable lives untroubled by debts, repayments and loss.
Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens lost their homes and many more lost their jobs, as broken relationships and suicide rates soared amid catastrophic social upheaval. Today, the same politicians continue to collect their massive and immoral state pensions, as they once again step forward to lecture a battered people on how the country should be run.
The young, and the not-so-young, saw no future in such a land. They fled the unhappiness, the stress and the bleak prospects arriving in Britain, Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia burdened with a heavy hope of something better.
I have no idea of the numbers of young Irish citizens who left our land for Oz, but I do know that everyone here has been affected by the forced migration of our young, from a fertile land that couldn’t provide for them.
Some of those who left were/are responsible adults trying to save a few pounds until such times as they can return to their homeland. Others, however, were/are like young adults across the western world, in that they went in search of adventure, and to party.
The lead protagonists in Red Dirt are of the latter variety. In seeking fun, they seek to forget the past. We get to know them intimately and eventually discover their reasons for leaving – Fiona, fleeing an abusive relationship, Murph, running from the embarrassment of his family bankruptcy, and Hopper, who tries desperately to escape the trauma of a childhood of neglect and abandonment whilst coming to terms with the loss of his girlfriend and child – and we follow them as their crazy paths cross and diverge in a land of ‘red dirt‘.
The author has managed to perfectly capture the trials of the young people as they struggle to cope with not only their environment, but also with the hostility they often receive from locals, and their own weaknesses and misconceived desires.
For me, the beauty of this book lies in the honest portrayal of the three as flawed individuals who want to be better. The characters are complex – not Dickens complex , but real-life complex.
People are flawed. None of us are perfect (except perhaps Donald Trump and Arlene Foster according to their own PR departments) and Red dirt demonstrates this magnificently.
The Australians receive the same treatment. Some are shown to be extremely nasty, while others are portrayed as thoroughly generous and decent people. I appreciate this approach, as it can become tiring to meet characters in novels where everyone is one-dimensional (think Twilight). Surely we can all agree that we are percentages of good and bad, light and dark, crazy and sane.
Red dirt is a gritty read. The language is real and hard-hitting. We Irish are not known for the general gentility of our fuckin’ lingo. An honest portrait requires such profanity. Some scenes are intense and may be upsetting for some readers, but are well-worth persevering through as, overall, Red Dirt is a gem.
You are probably wondering if I’m going to divulge any more of the plot. No, I’m not, so get ta fuck and buy the book! (I should point out that I’m not getting any remuneration from this). I really don’t want to give too much away with this story, as it will be enjoyed more when read.
Drugs, drink, fights, death, rape, drink, snakes, drugs, hardship, hostels, drink, memories, drugs and more drink… and some kangaroos. That’s about it.
Red Dirt is, amazingly, E.M. Reapy’s debut novel, so it’s even more feckin’ impressive for that. Reapy is a young Irish colleen with a big future, and if this isn’t adapted for the silver screen then I will chew on Oliver Stone’s pubic hair. Reapy is a prodigious talent and one for all to watch, and I will certainly be on the lookout for her next tome. Plus, she’s a ride.
Sult Scale rating: 7 out of 10. Recommended.