Book Review – The Little Boat on Trusting Lane

Mel Hall is a writer and musician based in Walyalup (Fremantle), Western Australia.

Her fiction has been longlisted for major writing awards, such as the Peter Carey Short Story Prize (2019), the Fogarty Literary Award (2019) and the Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award (2018).

Mel’s novella, The Choir of Gravediggers was published by Ginninderra Press, 2016.

Now Mel’s first novel, The Little Boat on Trusting Lane, has just been published by Fremantle Press.

The novel has a wonderful cast of characters who could easily be people you know around Freo, even your friends, or people you’ve seen wandering into the Third Wheel coffee shop in South Fremantle, where Mel Hall does a good amount of thinking and writing, or into Manna or the Organic Collective to buy their organic, alternative supplies.

Richard runs his alternative healing centre from an old houseboat in a scrapyard on Trusting Lane – a real lane/street in White Gum Valley. The Little Mother Earth Ship provides spiritual sustenance at regular meetings of the Circle of IEWA. While Richard plies his new-age wisdom, disciples Finn and August help to run the centre. But warning letters from the council are piling up down the side of the fridge and the arrival of a new mystic, Celestiaa Davinaa, is about to rock their world. How many alternative healers can one small boat hold before the enterprise capsizes?

Mel’s characters range in age and experience and gender. Many seem to be refugees from prior lives that didn’t quite work out the way they were expecting. Perhaps they’re not entirely damaged, but they certainly are lost and vulnerable folk. Each, with the exception of Ethann (yes, two ns) perhaps, has left a more formal religion behind in search of a deeper meaning to life that maybe only Freo can help them discover.

The plot and the characters take a few chapters to reveal their complexities, but then the dilemmas start unfolding. The suspense around what resolution to everyone’s issues is possible is nicely worked. There is some sort of satisfaction, if not healing, to be found.

Finn is an especially wonderful character who grows beautifully with every page.

In all, The Little Boat on Trusting Lane is a gentle examination of people and difference, of life and loss, and ultimately of learning to trust and finding the capacity to love. It also makes you smile a lot.

Here’s where to buy it!

Mel Hall kindly agreed to discuss her novel with our editor, Michael Barker.

Here’s the podcast interview.