By C. J. Flood
Published by Simon and Schuster
Thirteen year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother on a farm. Recently things haven't been too good: Mum has had a mid-life crisis, and left the family to go travelling.
Dad and 16-year-old Sam are having problems coping with the change, while Iris keeps a lot of her feelings to herself, and just gets on as best she can. But suddenly, life is interrupted by an unexpected event that will slowly spiral out of control.
First-time author C.J. Flood gets Iris' background out of the way quickly in Infinite Sky, and the story starts confidently. After an intriguing prologue briefly describing a teenager's funeral, Iris starts to tell her story, which the reader already knows is going to end in tragedy. This opener is gripping. Who has died, and how? Readers have no choice but to turn the pages. And they won't be disappointed.
It is three months since Mum walked out. Travelling gypsies moved into a field opposite the farm. To Iris' father, brother and best friend, Matty, the gypsy family mean trouble. Gypsies are dirty, they are thieves, and no one wants them living anywhere near their home. Iris' dad contacts the authorities to get them moved, but the gypsies know their rights, and they'll move when the mood strikes them.
Iris is intrigued by the gypsies, and watches them from her bedroom window. They are a real family with a mother, father, four young girls and a teenaged son, and a seemingly endless amount of love for one another.
A chance meeting brings Trick, the gypsy boy, and Iris together, and a friendship begins. They come from very different backgrounds, but the pair understands each other and quickly grow closer. Both know their time together must be kept secret. Hatred towards the gypsies is growing in the community. Violence is waiting to erupt.
The set-up is all very Romeo and Juliet-ish, and everyone knows how that story played out. But Flood fills her story with a small cast of very real people and is not afraid to take them along unexpected paths. The novel's highly emotional climax is a triumph that will stay with readers for a long time.
Infinite Sky will enthrall sensitive readers with its tragic story and toughness. It is a brave novel, and Flood doesn't feel the need to tie her first novel up with an orderly conclusion. Life isn't like that, anyway.
John Millen can be contacted at MillenBookshelf@aol.com