Review Blog

Sep 16 2014

The one and only Jack Chant by Rosie Borella

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Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743311387.
(Ages: 13-16) Highly recommended for Upper Primary/Lower Secondary with particular appeal to girls. Amber has finished school and her friends have all left town - scattered to universities and other places but somehow Amber is just not sure what she wants to do or where she wants to go. Biding time and wanting to earn some money while she decides, Amber does a three month training as a carer for the elderly and is able to secure a job in the local nursing home. Tranquil Banks (or Tranquil Blanks to locals) has only been open for a year and so the facility has been a welcome addition to the community and people are happy knowing their elderly residents are being cared for by professionals.
However, Amber shortly realises that the philosophy of the facility's owner/manager Mrs Ingersoll is not always aligned to the best interests of her senior citizen residents - nor is she supportive or even appreciative of her hard-working staff.
Amber enjoys the work and is very capable and compassionate with her charges but is baffled by both their references to a mysterious 'Jack' and then her own meeting with this strange boy who looks like he's from another place and time. As is revealed, Jack is indeed from another time, having suffered at a tragic accident at the very same location of the new Tranquil Banks over eighty years previously.
When Amber's much-loved elderly neighbour Vera is unwillingly forced into the nursing home by her family, it is Amber and Jack who join forces to support her in her final requests. Jack's mysterious calling to this place and connection with the residents is revealed in the process.
Curiously, this is another recently received review book which has resonated on a personal level for me given my mother's situation in a very similar nursing home and at times, this made me feel like slapping Mrs Ingersoll, the owner, sharply :-)
I was heartily pleased to see her outcome, and the initiative shown by Amber to take the nursing home to a new and improved future.
As Rosie Borella's first novel this is both competently and engagingly written with deft touches of humour as well as pathos. Described as a coming-of-age story, it is that and more as Amber discovers more about herself, the elderly and others as well as her path in life. It is certainly insightful into a sadly too common treatment of our elderly by some, and the saving compassion of others to provided our older people with a dignified, comfortable and happy twilight. The sweet romance between Amber and the enigmatic Jack is delightful and readers will relish the interaction between the two. Readers will also no doubt empathise with Amber's somewhat turbulent relationship with her parents - a common theme for sixteen-year-olds everywhere.
Sue Warren

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