The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock, Review: Deep charm

The Other Side of Beautiful, Kim Lock’s break out novel, offers a deeply impactful perspective wrapped in a charming warm-hearted package. Read my full review.

The Other Side of Beautiful Synopsis

The Other Side of Beautiful Book Review - author Kim Lock

What happens when fate says ‘go’? Lost & Found meets The Rosie Project in a stunning break-out novel where a vulnerable misfit is forced to re-engage with the world, despite her best efforts.

Meet Mercy Blain, whose house has just burnt down. Unfortunately for Mercy, this goes beyond the disaster it would be for most people: she hasn’t been outside that house for two years.

Flung out into the world she’s been studiously ignoring, Mercy goes to the only place she can: her not-quite-ex-husband Eugene’s house. But it turns out she can’t stay there either.

And so begins Mercy’s unwilling journey. After the chance purchase of a cult classic campervan (read tiny, old and smelly), with the company of her sausage dog, Wasabi, and a mysterious box of cremated remains, Mercy heads north from Adelaide to Darwin.

On the road, through badly timed breakdowns, gregarious troupes of grey nomads, and run-ins with a rogue adversary, Mercy’s carefully constructed walls start crumbling. But what was Mercy hiding from in her house? And why is Eugene desperate to have her back in the city? They say you can’t run forever…

Exquisite, tender and wry, this is a break-out novel about facing anxiety and embracing life from an extraordinary new talent.

(HarperCollins Australia, July 2021)

Genre: Drama, Literature

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Book Review

I may be a year late to the party, only now getting a chance to read Kim Lock’s breakout novel. But, I can certainly attest to why The Other Side of Beautiful earned spots on many readers’ Best Books of 2021 lists.

Who doesn’t love a fish-out-of-water story? Or a warm-hearted road trip to redemption with a gorgeous sausage dog as a sidekick? Yes, at first it seems Lock has simply selected her ingredients wisely. But then you come to realise it is the remarkable depth and raw authenticity she has achieved in lead Mercy Blain’s characterisation that elevate this novel to something truly special.

It was a weak-muscled, delirious kind of laughter. It was laughing-at-a-funeral laughter. Lying on the stiff foam mattress, she wept and giggled and wept again until she was breathless.

A character gem

In a refreshing twist to the fish-out-of-water lead character trope, Mercy Blain is acutely aware of how her strange behaviour and at times dishevelled appearance will be judged by others. She knows from personal experience that beauty is often only skin-deep. She owns her flaws – people can like it or lump it. And, I think it is this attitude that gives readers genuine permission to laugh at some of the wonderful visual comedy and farcical situations she finds herself in along her journey.

She wanted to reach up and try to smooth her hair, but that would only draw attention to it— if it wasn’t already up there whistling and swinging its hips like a showgirl.

Equally, it is her deep understanding of the catalyst for her crippling anxiety, and that her ‘sticking her head in the sand’ response to it has been contrary to sound professional advice, which makes her struggle so moving. 

Life had been reduced to moments of fear strung together like beads on a wire of anticipation. Until finally that string had frayed, unravelled, snapped— beads falling to the floor and scattering everywhere. Flames licking the night sky.

Evocative depiction

In The Other Side of Beautiful, Lock’s ability to convey what anxiety and panic attacks can feel like to those of us fortunate enough not to have experienced them for ourselves, along with the isolation and overwhelming vastness of Australia’s rugged red center, is just superb.

The highway unfurled a path over rolling, stony desert; Mercy was left alone with the breeze, the late afternoon light blazing stark over impossibly vast red earth, and the wide flung expanse of flaming sky. Evening was a blanket of shadow by the time Mercy pulled into Glendambo: a pinprick of an establishment on the elephant hide of the outback. 

If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we all have moments in our lives, if only briefly, where the world around us feels a little loud. Kim Lock’s The Other Side of Beautiful offers up a deeply impactful perspective wrapped in a charming warm-hearted package sure to coax even the most hardened souls to dip their toes into the water again. A must read.

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

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More The Other Side of Beautiful reviews

‘A colourful, engaging story of escape and road-trip adventure … also compellingly cinematic and features an endearing narrator-heroine with plenty of meaty real-world troubles.’ – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Mercy Blain is a character you find yourself cheering on. Kim Lock mixes the transformative journey of Alice Hart with the quirkiness of Eleanor Oliphant in this story about embracing life, even when it threatens to overwhelm you’ – Tricia Stringer, bestselling author of The Family Inheritance

‘Tender, funny and quietly profound, The Other Side of Beautiful is a breath of fresh air.’ – The Sunday Times

About the Author, Kim Lock

Kim Lock is an internationally published author of four novels – Peace, Love and Khaki Socks (2013), The Good Mother (2017), The Three of Us (2018) and The Other Side of Beautiful (2021). Her writing has also appeared in Kill Your Darlings, The Guardian, Daily Life and The Sydney Morning Herald online, among others. She lives in regional South Australia with her family. Visit her website for more information.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.