A darkly funny and poignant coming of age story by an extraordinary new voice
Meet Dorcas, a spirited 12-year-old struggling to contain her irrepressible humour and naughty streak in a family of Christadelphians in 1960s Adelaide. She is her mother’s least favourite child and always at the bottom of the order on the family’s string of beads that she and her younger siblings Ruthy and Caleb reorder according to their mother’s ever-changing moods.
Dorcas, an aspiring vet, dreams of having a dog, or failing that, a guinea pig named Thruppence. Ruthy wants to attend writing school, and Caleb wants to play footy with the local team. But Christadelphians aren’t allowed to be ‘of the world’ and when their older brother Daniel is exiled to door knock and spread the good word in New South Wales after being caught making out with Esther Dawlish at youth camp, each try their hardest to suppress their dreams for a bigger life. But for a girl like Dorcas, dreams have a habit of surfacing at the most inopportune moments, and as she strives to be the daughter her mother desires, a chain of mishaps lead to a tragedy no one could have foreseen.
This is a superb coming of age story that explores a fraught mother-daughter dynamic, and the secrets adults keep from their children. It is about resilience, and the loves that sustain us when our most essential bonds are tested, and how to find the way back through hope and forgiveness.
PRAISE for The Family String
'I adored The Family String – warm, funny, heartfelt and impossible to put down. One of the most resonant voices I’ve had the joy of reading in a very, very long time. Dorcas is a truly unforgettable character – finishing this book felt like taking a deep breath and bidding a bittersweet farewell to a well-loved friend.' – Eliza Henry-Jones, author of In the Quiet
'Picton establishes a strong rapport between reader and character. Dorcas is such a deep, rich, lovable character ... A really engaging read.' – Good Reading
'When I was not reading this book, I was thinking about this book. My heart was with Dorcas on every step of her journey.’ – Aurelia Orr, Readings
‘If you’re into complex depictions of mother-daughter relationships this one’s for you.’ – Pedestrian
Debut novel by Australian author now in her mid-sixties, raised in a Christadelphian family in suburban Adelaide in the 1960s, who became a social worker, and eventually a management consultant with her own business.
‘The Family String’ is a first person narrative by 12-year-old Dorcas, the oldest girl in a Christadelphian family in suburban Adelaide in the 1960s (surprise, surprise), who is accused so frequently of being a troublemaker that she comes to believe it. Her big bro has been banished to NSW to proselytise door-to-door following “evil deeds’ involving a girl. The younger siblings include an overachieving girl with literary aspirations and a boy who suffers asthma, if not as badly as his overbearing mother likes to make out. The family’s major problem is the mother’s depression, for which the father eschews pharmaceuticals in favour of prayer. (Spoiled alert: big mistake). The writing was clear, the plot development satisfactory if predictable. There are some funny passages, which are insufficient to make Dorcas quirky, or memorable, for me at least. An extra half star for being a first novel.