Learning to find the light

2008-12-03 00:00

“Look to your wounds. That’s where the light enters.” This quote from Rumi, the Sufi poet precedes Joanne Fedler’s new novel, Things Without a Name, and sets the tone. The novel follows the journey of Faith Roberts who has chosen to work as a legal counsellor at a women’s crisis centre.

Her work consists of helping women who have suffered terrible abuse at the hands of men. It is a thankless job. Just as women are about to take control of their own lives, they often fall victim to the worst kind of abuse from their threatened partners. Faith has to deal with femicide on a regular basis.

Faith’s only real friend is Carol who works at the centre with her. Carol, however, needs as much care as any of Faith’s clients, as she is constantly on the verge of suicide herself. Faith is also alienated from her family. She resents her mother for stealing the limelight through writing a book about the death of her son, Faith’s brother. And Faith’s sister, Libby, thinks getting her breasts enhanced is the best wedding present she could give a future husband. Her father isn’t much good either as he withdraws into intractable silence. Faith’s life is relentlessly bleak, especially as the one relationship that mattered to

her ended when her best friend (and first-time lover) Josh succumbed to cystic fibrosis in his early teens.

When she runs over a cat one night she finds herself in a veterinary clinic pouring her heart out to a man who loves animals as much as she does. Caleb is a vet, and as wounded as Faith. Through their relationship, they discover that life does not have to become a penance for their beleagured pasts.

This is a good novel in spite of a few loose ends. It could have done with some editing, but it is still a great read which explores the seldom spoken about world of female abuse.

South African-born Fedler now lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and children.

Janet van Eeden

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