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That Eye, the Sky


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About the Author

Tim Winton was born in Perth in 1960. He is the author of fifteen books, including novels, a collection of stories, non-fiction and books for children. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice, for The Riders (1995) and Dirt Music (2002).


Australian Winton's American debut novel, Shallows, dealt with an entire community facing a crisis. In this more tightly focused book, one family deals with the crisis caused by a tragic accident. Sam Flack and his wife are leftover Sixties hippies, with a son called Ort verging on adolescence when a car wreck leaves Sam comatose. A mysterious stranger, whom Ort has seen living beneath a bridge, arrives and announces he has come to care for Sam. The stranger turns out to be another burned-out Sixties survivor who hopes to redeem himself. Obviously intended as a parable about the curative powers of love and faith, this is sometimes genuinely moving and brings to mind Agee's A Death in the Family , but its resolution seems forced and lacks conviction. Even so, Ort's grappling to make sense of his terribly altered world makes this a book worth considering. Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.

Australian author Winton, at age 26, has won his country's highest awards and critics' acclaim for An Open Swimmer and Shallows. His third novel is narrated by 10-year-old Morton (Ort) Flack in a distinctive voice that holds the reader's attention and emotions throughout this coming-of-age chronicle. The catalyst is a car crash that leaves Ort's father, Sam, paralyzed and precipitates tribulations for his family. The Flacksincluding Ort's weak mother Alice, his sexy sister Tegwyn and his lonely, senile grandmotherare poor settlers in the Outback. As the family's circumstances dwindle, Ort hopes for a miracle that will cure his beloved father, but is frightened when a stranger, itinerant evangelist Henry Warburton, insinuates himself into the household. Alice is attracted to Warburton, who helps care for Sam and preaches religious dogma even while he's having his way with Tegwyn. A crisis looms, and its unforeseen effects end the wrenching story that proves love like Ort's can prevail against hell itself. (March)

`The great strength of the novel is in the way the grotesque contrasts and parallels in human life are spread out, examined and accepted' Los Angeles Times
`Towards the end of the novel Ort prays for a miracle: "Funny when you talk to God. He's like the sky . . . Never says anything. But you know he listens." Though God hasn't answered Ort yet, Mr. Winton convinces us he might' New York Times

At twelve years old, Morton - Ort for short - is not quite a child, but not yet an adult; his isolated outback world is an intriguing combination of boyish innocence, adolescent confusion and burgeoning awareness. When his father is seriously injured in a car crash, however, that world is suddenly thrown into complete disarray and the whole family have to adjust.

As Ort, his sister, mother and grandmother are struggling to come to terms with what has happened, a stranger appears in their midst. Preaching God's word, Henry Warburton's unexpected arrival seems eerily prescient, at a time when the family most need a helping hand, and Henry quickly makes himself indispensable. In fact, for Ort in particular, it is Henry's presence, perhaps more even than his father's accident, that brings the greatest change to his world.

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