A review by Emma Streeton
When Mina receives an urgent call from her best friend back in Melbourne, her world is turned upside down. Her agoraphobic mother, Elaine, has left the house for the first time in twelve years. Mina drops everything to fly home, only to discover that Elaine will not talk about her sudden return to the world, nor why she spent so much time hiding from it. Their reunion leaves Mina raking through pieces of their painful past in a bid to uncover the truth. Kokomo is about the mother-daughter relationship.
A slow start
It took me some time to get into Kokomo and even longer to make up my mind as to whether I liked or disliked the protagonist Mina. Hannan does a wonderful job of creating a character who is as equally vulnerable as she is strong, and equally sad as she is witty. Mina comes across as very young for her 32 years, grappling with infatuation and unrequited love. There were moments when her character completely frustrated me and yet others when I was made to feel so deeply sad about how much her mother’s behavior impacted her. I can only guess that this is what Hannan set out to achieve. As the story develops Mina’s behaviors are more understandable. Without a doubt Hannan successfully highlights the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship. We see the impact of disappointing relationships. The desperate desire for connection, understanding and being needed.
It’s all about point of view
Seeing things from Mina’s mother’s perspective and getting to grips with her story was a highlight for me. Elaine’s story reveals the similarities that exist between mother and daughter. They both unknowingly possess the same traits, and both are searching for a way to move on. Hannan reminds us that everyone has a history and it is our experiences that shape us. We are reminded that parents have a story to tell and a lot of life has already played out before children come along. Mina’s unawareness of her mum’s experiences and Elaine’s unwillingness to share serve to make a very complicated relationship.
Hannan is a fabulous writer. She writes evocatively, with the ability to arouse emotion in the reader. By the end of Kokomo I could see all of her characters are beautifully flawed and this makes them feel all the more real. A compelling story that will stay in your mind a long time after you reach the end. My advice: stick with the first few chapters and then things really begin to pick up pace.
Read this if you enjoyed Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina. – Editor
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars