Frank and Leon are two men from different times, discovering that sometimes all you learn from your parents' mistakes is how to make different ones of your own.
Frank is trying to escape his troubled past by running away to his family's beach shack. As he struggles to make friends with his neighbors and their precocious young daughter, Sal, he discovers the community has fresh wounds of its own. A girl is missing, and when Sal too disappears, suspicion falls on Frank.
Decades earlier, Leon tries to hold together his family's cake shop as their suburban life crumbles in the aftermath of the Korean War. When war breaks out again, Leon must go from sculpting sugar figurines to killing young men as a conscript in the Vietnam War.
One of Granta's New Voices of 2008, debut novelist Wyld chronicles the stories of two Australian men and the shards of trauma that have made up both lives. Frank and Leon live parallel lives: the narratives begin with young Leon's father heading to the Korean War, and, 40 years later, with an adult Frank holing up in a decrepit beachfront shack. Leon's father returns from Korea badly damaged, having been in a prison camp, and soon runs away, with Leon's mother giving chase. Later Leon is drafted and faces in Vietnam horrors similar to those that traumatized his father. Meanwhile, in the present day, Frank is starting over after his girlfriend leaves him. Making do in the family shack, he befriends his neighbors and threads together a passable existence in spite of remembered tragedies, anger at his shadowy father and a spate of local children gone missing. The two narrative threads stay separate until the final pages, and, refreshingly, their connection isn't overplayed. At times startling, Wyld's book is ruminative and dramatic, with deep reserves of empathy colored by masculine rage and repression.