Southern Aurora by Mark Brandi

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We always listen out for the train when we're down in the cutting because sometimes they come quicker than you expect. There aren't as many trains as there used to be. Mostly just the freight ones, like the one that nearly killed us on the bus . . . The best train is the Southern Aurora. It goes all the way from Melbourne to Sydney, and from Sydney to Melbourne. It stops in Mittigunda because we're pretty much exactly halfway between.'

Jimmy is a kid growing up fast on the poorest street in town. He tries to do everything right and look out for his mum and his younger brother. His older brother is in jail, so it's up to Jimmy to hold things together. But small-town life is unforgiving if you're from the other side of the tracks.

If only his mum didn't drink so much.
If only he could win the school billycart race.
If only his best friend understood.
If only he could stop his mum's boyfriend from getting angry.
If only he was there.

Jimmy soon learns that even when you get things right, everything can still go wrong.

'If you only read one Australian fiction book this year, let it be this one' Samuel Johnson

'Evocative and authentic, Brandi has created a world filled with equal parts hope and dread. Southern Aurora is a special book' Sarah Bailey

'Another quietly riveting, emotionally potent novel from Mark Brandi' The Age

'The master of small-town dread' Canberra Times

'Heart-wrenching' The Australian Women's Weekly

'Another page-turner'Who Weekly

'Mark Brandi has delivered a protagonist that could well become one of Australia's classic characters. There's a Mark Twain innocence and inner wisdom to Jimmy, one far beyond most adults' Weekend Australian

'Brandi's poignant and deceptively uncomplicated tale pulses with foreboding - but also hope' Courier Mail

'Unforgettable and unsurpassable . . . Brandi's observations are breathtakingly original and his insights are astute. Southern Aurora tackles issues with a purity that's as rare as it is precious' Better Reading

'A beautiful and deeply affecting book . . . Mark Brandi proves himself a master raconteur, in a work characterised by gentle humour, perceptiveness and kindness' Living Arts Canberra

'A powerful and deeply moving portrayal of a sensitive, vulnerable boy battling against the odds for a happy life' Brisbane Times

'Moving and well-crafted' AU Review