Review Blog

Nov 26 2015

The beauty is in the walking by James Moloney

cover image

Angus and Robertson, 2015. ISBN 9780732299941
(Age:14+) Recommended. Jacob O'Leary has Cerebral Palsy and apart from suffering a great deal of physical pain, he struggles to walk and often finds himself in undignified positions after falling or having been knocked over. This novel is not about disability however. C.P. is something which his loving, supportive family and protective friends appear to simultaneously accommodate and ignore as he involves himself completely in everyday life.
Living in the small town of Palmerston, enjoying the last days of his final school year, Jacob socialises with his tight group and looks forward to starting work in a local business. Jacob's most difficult problem appears to be how he should make romantic advances to his close friend Amy, however his life changes wildly when animals are cruelly killed in a series of vicious and nonsensical attacks.
Speculation abounds and eventually police arrest a young Moslem boy, a son from one of the families who have recently been employed in the town's meatworks, the mainstay of the local economy. Having witnessed racist bullying of the boy previously and despite having assisted him to escape a savage beating, Jacob's self-criticism, based on a sense of impotence from being unable to physically oppose the mob, compels him to try to prove the lad's innocence.
Jacob's good intentions are admirable and the author beautifully captures the adolescent zeal and earnestness which prompt naive actions which lead to horrible ignominy and tension.
The core issue within the narrative has a reasonably uncluttered trajectory, however there is a great deal happening on different levels which makes this a worthy read. Passages describing the torment of mustering courage to express love and affection are enough to break your heart, because whilst this boy fears rejection, anyone who has ever lived knows how he feels. It would be unforgivable to spoil the story with too much detail, however the emotional pain suffered by Jacob far surpasses the significant physical trauma he must endure as he investigates this case. Some of the behaviours which cause such discomfort when depicted are repellent because they are morally wrong. Others simply reflect weaknesses in character and natural human feelings. I commend the author for portraying individuals courageously, showing the grit and flaws without being tempted to follow saccharine formula and expectation.
Rob Welsh

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