TWO STEPS FORWARD by Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist, Book Review

Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist’s Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal—physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover.

Two Steps Forward Review

Two Steps Forward Synopsis

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past—for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino—the Way—for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself.

But can these two very different people find each other?

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist.

(Text Publishing, October 2017)

Genre: Romance, Drama, Adventure, Mystery

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The word ‘gentle’ is what I keep coming back to when reflecting upon Simsion & Buist’s Two Steps Forward — a gentle romance with gentle humour involving two people who have little in common, other than recently experiencing traumatic and life-changing events.

Zoe and Martin are stereotypical opposites – her a socially conscious, feisty and artistic type accustomed to just getting by, and he a man always with a plan, a first aid and toolkit, map, GPS, guidebook etc and very British emotional reserve – but each endearing in their own way.

Two Steps Forward is a very slow burn, with Zoe and Martin prioritising their personal journeys (mid-life growing self-awareness) over romance. But it seems the fates, and a colourful and eclectic ensemble cast of fellow Camino pilgrims, have other ideas…

I’d no prior exposure to Buist’s fiction, but have enjoyed all of Simsion’s titles to date. While the mood in Two Steps Forward is sweeter and less satirical than previous outings, his talent for writing engaging dialogue is on full display. And the alternating first-person narratives worked well. But most of all, their characters’ need to grieve for things lost and connect with feelings and emotions so long avoided felt real… and ultimately, cathartic and uplifting.

It is no surprise Two Steps Forward has been optioned by Fox Searchlight with Ellen DeGeneres and Jeff Kleeman producing it through A Very Good Production Company. The scenery and panoramic views of the French and Spanish countryside alone should make the movie adaptation a pleasure to watch, but as with any character-driven story the lead role casting will be key to its success, and I hope as mature in age as Buist and Simsion originally intended.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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I have since thoroughly enjoyed this book’s sequel, Two Steps Onward (released June 2021).

About the Authors, Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

Graeme Simsion is a Melbourne-based novelist and screenwriter. The Rosie Project was the 2014 ABIA Book of the Year and has sold over three million copies worldwide. The sequel, The Rosie Effect, is also a bestseller, with worldwide sales of more than a million copies. Graeme’s screenplay for The Rosie Project is in development with Sony Pictures and The Best of Adam Sharp is in development with Toni Collette’s Vocab Films. Visit Graeme’s website or connect with him on Twitter.

Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She has over twenty-five years’ clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry and works with protective services and the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Professor Buist is married to novelist Graeme Simsion and has two children. Her novels featuring forensic psychiatrist Natalie King are Medea’s Curse, Dangerous to Know and This I Would Kill For. Visit Anne’s website or connect with her on Twitter.

Other reviews of Two Steps Forward

“Fans of The Rosie Project might recognise shades of Don Tillman in Martin, who admits he has a “limited toolkit for dealing with human relations”. A bit smug, he’s not an easy character to like, but his flaws make for compelling reading. Zoe is warmer, tenacious and more aware of her own shortcomings. Both are on a search for something more.” – SydneyMorningHerald

Two Steps Forward is a feel-good, mature romance that explores what we need to let go of to move forward. It will be enjoyed by fans of Simsion’s ‘Rosie’ books and Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.” – Books+Publishing

“Buist and Simsion are accomplished authors in their own right, and together they bring the Way to life, in their descriptions of the routes themselves, the people, be they fellow walkers or the French inhabitants they meet along the way – those who respect what they’re doing, and those who will overcharge them for everything.” – Pop.Edit.Lit

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2017 and 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.