Tuesday 9 April 2024

Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors by Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin) ISBN: 9781761180750 RRP $19.99

Reviewed by Melissa Wray

Unlike most teenagers, Grace only cares about two things, and they don’t include social media and friends. Grace lives for magic tricks and her grandmother. A repertoire of magic tricks she can master, but her cantankerous yet charming grandmother is a whole other act.

Grace lives with her alcoholic mother and avoids any kind of relationship with her at all costs. Instead, she visits her grandmother whose unpleasant and forthright attitude is almost as predictable to Grace as it is startling. Gran’s character is a ripper! There are many laugh out loud moments with Gran’s quick retorts and embellished truths. Jonsberg has created such a fabulous portrayal of this feisty, rude but loveable woman that this reader would happily visit and enjoy a cup of tea with a wagon wheel with Gran anytime.

Grace’s magician career begins to take off with the help of a patient and purely platonic friend called Simon. He invests in Grace’s career and stands by her even when she repeatedly lets him down. Grace’s career of performing magic tricks begins to disappear as she grapples with the terminal illness diagnosis given to Gran. However, she is saving the best trick for last.

This book deals with terminal illness and tough conversations in a manner that is considered, open, heartfelt and at times, light-hearted- “May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” It also addresses family trauma through the tragic loss of Grace’s father many years before. A driving force for Grace’s self-imposed isolation and trust issues.

This book is such an entertaining read. The hardest part will be putting it down once you begin. Smoke and Mirrors is suitable for a 14+ readership.


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