Big Thursday by Anne Brooksbank
Penguin, 2013. ISBN 9780143567165.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. As the cover and title suggest, surfing forms the background to some key events in this story but in reality it is less a book about surfing than a book about family relationships and the love of a son for his father.
Nat has shared some wonderful times with his dad, Luke, who was a surfing hero as a young man. Destined for a golden surfing future, Luke chose instead to work in the world of business and the large family home on the lake, the two cars and boat, are all signs of his success. But all this has changed. Not only has Luke's business suffered due to the global financial crisis but also he has been implicated in fraudulent dealings. His job is gone, the house and boat must go and for the next two years, Luke must spend weekends in prison.
Nat's world has literally been turned upside down. Yet rather than worry about himself, Nat is deeply concerned about his father's emotional wellbeing. Despite the criminal charges against Luke, Nat always has faith in his father, it is Luke who must grow in understanding as the novel proceeds, learning to recognise his own emotional trauma and take responsibility for his actions.
Nat is a likable young lad, a credible mix of resilience and anxiety; readers will care about his journey. The climax of the story, where father and son face fierce surf together, is fast-paced and believable and results in a satisfying conclusion to events and themes. It is fitting that Luke should find redemption in the surf.
This novel is set in the same world as two of Anne Brooksbank's previous novels: Mother's Day and Father's Day. Characters from these books make a brief but important appearance, however, readers do not need to be familiar with these books to enjoy Big Thursday. All three books traverse similar territory: in a time of family crisis, parent-child relationships can be explored in a meaningful way.
This is an engaging novel which should appeal to both boys and girls, whether or not they are surfing fans.