Most of us are not bad people – sometimes we just do bad things…
Lou, Aimee, and Melinda like to believe they are inherently good people. Best friends since childhood, they share a close bond, despite their differences – Lou, a fiery single mother struggling to rein in her troubled teenage daughter; Aimee, with her picture-perfect life, husband, children, and winery to boot; and Melinda, a successful single businesswoman who has just escaped the Big Smoke and moved back to small-town Hensley where they all first met.
On New Year’s Eve, the three friends choose to celebrate by visiting a small town in the rich wine country outside of Sydney. Revelling in the end of year celebrations and wanting to commemorate the year to come, they decide to let off Chinese lanterns filled with resolutions to find meaning, to gain freedom, to earn more money. It is of course illegal to use these flickering lanterns, and, in the back of their minds, the three women know this. After the glowing bags float away and are out of sight, they spot a bright flare in the distance – perhaps a sign of luck? Or, much worse – the start of a nightmare that will destroy the women’s friendships, families, and careers.
Aimee can’t seem to shake the feeling that the flare was something bad, some terrible accident that they caused with their reckless behaviour. Surely, on the news the very next day, there is a report of a small plane accident with two victims – one a young boy – pulled from the fiery wreckage. Are they to blame, or is just a terrible, horrifying coincidence? Aimee is certain they are guilty, Melinda is in denial, and Lou is too overwhelmed by the other problems in her life to even consider what could have happened. It’s a sure-fire recipe for obsession, blackmail, shame, and guilt, and suddenly, like the flaming plane, the foundations of their friendship come crashing down…
Not Bad People is a remarkable debut by radio presenter and journalist, Brandy Scott. Alternating between the voices of the three women, Scott paints a compelling picture not only of the struggles of womanhood and motherhood, but the nuances of friendship, the complex layers and history of our relationships. The concept of the book is fresh and unique, with the accident acting as a catalyst for each women’s self-reflection – suddenly, they must face the truth about themselves, the things they have hidden for so many years, not just from themselves but also from each other.
This tension is of course heightened by the small-town setting of the novel, where resentments and tensions have been left to fester for years, and no secret can every truly be kept.
Fans of Liane Moriarty will enjoy Scott’s effortless talent for creating real-life characters. If you’re looking for a tense read that will have you gripped from start to finish, look no further – Not Bad People is next on your list.