The city I grew up in was elastic and belonged to me and my friends as we stretched it through the nights. We knew its contours, and when something new arrived we were among the first to be a part of it. Everything was powder pink and bendy and shiny for us. We hadn’t had time to build a lasting memory around some fixture and then watch that time fall away from under us.
A group of friends moves into a share house in Redfern. They are all on the cusp of thirty and big life changes, navigating insecure employment and housing, second-generation identity, online dating and social alienation—and one of them, our narrator, has just lost her father.
How do you inhabit a space where the landscape is shifting around you, when your sense of self is unravelling? What meaning does time have in the midst of grief?
Through emotionally rich vignettes, tinged with humour, Friends & Dark Shapes sketches the contours of contemporary life. It is a novel of love and loss, of constancy and change. Most of all, it is about looking for connection in an estranged world.
Kavita Bedford is an Australian-Indian writer with a background in journalism, anthropology and literature. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, the Guardian and Griffith Review, and she was a recent Churchill Fellow exploring migrant narratives. She works and teaches in Sydney in media and global studies.
Bedford beautifully portrays the life of an Australian Indian writer struggling with grief a year after the death of her father. The unnamed 29-year-old woman mourns alone in Sydney, her mother having returned to her native India to cope, and her boyfriend having broken up with her. She finds community with her housemates in suburban Redfern: former teen model Niki, whose father eluded the Khmer Rouge; Sami, whose Palestinian parents want him to marry a Muslim; and Bowerbird, a guitarist from California. The narrator muses, "We are turning thirty and things don't look like we imagined they would." Notably so for Bowerbird, whose sister has the same type of cancer that killed the narrator's father. Along the way, the narrator reminisces about her father's dark moods, which he described as "sea creature days." For a spell, she works on a series of magazine pitches about Redfern's gentrification while ruminating on misconceptions about other neighborhoods ("people tread their well-worn grooves and resist knowing more"). It's an illuminating series of episodes, but unfortunately, Bedford abandons them to dwell on the narrator's processing of grief. While the author does a great job portraying the friends, the reminiscences of "dark shapes" remain a bit too ephemeral. Still, she pulls off an insightful view of a city in flux.