Review: Lawrence McMahon – As Swallows Fly

As Swallows Fly
Lawrence McMahon

Kate is a plastic surgeon who cares for her patients even as they work her to the bone. Malika is an orphan abandoned after a bus crash, growing up in unforgiving Pakistan. Malika shows promise with her studies, but it seems unclear whether she will be able to bust through the stifling disregard of the village. Kate is volunteered to mentor Malika in Australia, yet Kate isn’t really ready for the child.

The novel opens on Kate’s childhood, but then skips forward to her mother’s funeral. It then swoops back to Malika’s childhood and follows through to present day. The tension builds because we know from the blurb that something terrible will happen to Malika and that Kate will (eventually) need to save her. Unfortunately the blurb basically gave the ending away, because it was of course going to be a happy ending.

The element of tension that tried to be introduced by the Taliban’s invasion of Pakistan seemed at odds to the rest of the characters. Sure, I liked the priests well enough, but I didn’t care enough about them that I wanted words wasted on them. I much would have preferred a critical look at Kate’s surgeries or Malika’s classwork.

This has to be the fourth novel in a row that has a boarding school setting! However, in this situation it is essential that there is a school who can take Malika on. What I didn’t understand was that the teacher wasn’t more understanding. How could someone so sour about people being different survive in a place where it seemed like diversity was supported? Anyway, I thought that it highlighted how judgemental people are without knowing more (anything) about the people that they meet.

For me ultimately this novel fell short. After a slow start and middle (no problems there) the ending seemed rushed and was unsatisfactory. I had so many questions left over. Did Malika recover fully? Did Kate actually move on with her life? While I read the rest compulsively in one sitting, ultimately the ending wasn’t good enough to justify 4 stars.

Ventura Press | March 2021 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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