I first became aware of The eye of the sheep shortly after it was published in 2014. I noticed the cover, two faces, a large shaggy dog and a cherubic little boy with soulful eyes, beseeching me to read. I resisted it because of the sentimentality of the cover. Then it was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin, and then it won the Miles Franklin. I finally acquired a copy to read in late 2015. Have you ever heard the warning not to judge a book by its cover?
As soon as I started to read I was captivated. I had stepped through Jimmy’s front door and became an invited witness to all of the heartbreak and distress that a dysfunctional family can embody. At the same time I experienced the heartfelt love and light of being a member of the Flick family through the eyes of this unique little boy. I was captivated by Sofie Laguna’s language, which has been described as poetic, glittering, luminous and kaleidoscopic. I found myself inside Jimmy’s head and sharing his unique perspective.
Jimmy is a boy who goes too fast and too slow, his cells spin and he relies on his mum to help slow them down. He needs to keep out of his dad’s way, especially when Merle Haggard is playing on the record player. His brother Robbie is a refuge and his protector. Jimmy draws the relationships between family members with ropes and cords and cobwebs; relaxing them to make room when it is needed and then drawing them back together. He sees past the surface to the truth of peoples’ goodness and badness without judgement. Through his naivety, Jimmy recognises that our surfaces are an illusion and that under our surfaces, where our blood rushes through our veins and our organs pump away, we are all the same.
Jimmy’s story is set in suburban Melbourne, in the shadow of the oil refinery that employs his father Gavin. His employment provides a tenuous stability and when the inevitable retrenchment hits, it sets the family members spinning off into different directions. When Jimmy’s adults can no longer look after him, he has to learn to save himself. The truth of this story is bleak but Jimmy’s perspective injects shards of brilliant light and happiness. You may not feel that there is a truly happy ending, but I think you will feel the hope for a better life for Jimmy.
You can borrow The eye of the sheep from the Picton or Mobile libraries.