Australian author Jock Serong’s books are getting better and better. Quota was good. The Rules of Backyard Cricket was really good. On the Java Ridge takes on one of Australia’s biggest, most divisive issues and smashes it!
The story begins with Isi and her boyfriend, who own a surfing charter business in Indonesia. While Joel is in Australia trying to get more money from the bank to keep their business afloat, Isi takes a group of Australian surfers out on their boat to a remote surfing location. On the way they anchor at Dana, a lonely island with great surf where they camp overnight on the beach. In the middle of the night Isi wakes up to the sound of voices in the water calling for help and realises that another boat has been wrecked on the reef.
Isi, her crew from the Java Ridge and the surfers race into the water to do what they can to save the drowning people, managing to haul more than half to shore. The wrecked boat was full of asylum seekers who paid people smugglers to get them to Australia, not knowing that Australia is turning back the boats. Amongst the asylum seekers is a young girl, Roya and her pregnant mother. Along with most of the other asylum seekers, they are fleeing the Taliban.
During the rescue one of the Australian surfers received a life-threatening injury and amongst the asylum seekers, a young boy suffered a life-threatening concussion. One of the Australian surfers is a doctor, who does his best to keep the injured people alive in a tent on the beach with only the contents of the Java Ridge‘s First Aid box. The island is so remote that the Australians are unable to contact anyone in Australia or Indonesia for assistance.
Back in Australia, Cassius Calvert, a former Olympian (sporting stars have always been Australian’s favourite type of hero) is the Federal Minister for Border Integrity. He and his government have just announced a tough new policy saying that they will no longer help asylum seeking vessels in distress. There is an election around the corner and this policy is popular with the Australian people, who are happy to take the line that they don’t want crooks making a business of bringing asylum-seekers to Australia.
A few days before the election, Cassius receives and investigates an unverified report of an asylum seeking boat which appears to have been wrecked at Dana, causing the Prime Minister to show just what he is capable of doing to win an election.
The ending of this book took my breath away. To set the scene, I’m reading away on the train, getting closer and closer to the end of the story and wondering how the author is going to finish everything off, than BAM! I was left gasping, looking around at the people on my train in disbelief at what the author did to his characters.
Funnily enough, it’s like a meeting of the United Nations on my train as people from all sorts of backgrounds live out my way. Quite a few of them may even have been asylum seekers once themselves. No one cared about my big shock, though, instead everyone just kept scrolling through their phones… Ah, the lucky country…
The three books I’ve now read by Jock Serong were in Aunty Gwen’s big bag of books. Jock Serong’s latest book is Preservation and I’ll by buying it to pass on to her once I’ve read it.