After the breakdown of a turbulent relationship, Frank moves from Canberra to a shack on the east coast once owned by his grandparents. He wants to put his violent past and bad memories of his father behind him. In this small coastal community, he tries to reinvent himself as someone capable of regular conversation and cordial relations. He even starts to make friends, including a precocious eight year old named Sal. But it is not that easy for him to let go of the past.
Leon is the child of European immigrants to Australia, living in Sydney. His father loves Australia for becoming their home when their own country turned hostile during the Second World War. His mother is not so comforted by suburban life in a cake shop. As Leon grows up in the 50s and 60s, his watches as his parents' lives are broken after his father volunteers to fight in the Korean War. Leon himself goes from working in the shop, sculpting sugar dolls for the tops of wedding cakes, to killing young men as a conscripted machine-gunner in Vietnam.
In the fall out from the war, Leon thinks he might be able to make a new life with his woman, make a baby, live by the sea in a small shack. But something watches from the cold shade of the teeming bush.
Set in eastern Australia with its dark trees and blinding light, where the land is old but its wounds are still wet, this beautifully realised debut tells a story of fathers and sons, their wars and the things they will never know about each other. It is about the things men cannot say out loud and the taut silence that fills up the empty space.