The Invisible Rider, by Kirsten McDougall
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Philip Fetch is a lawyer with an office in a suburban shopping mall, a husband and father, and a cyclist on Wellington’s narrow and winding streets. He is also a man who increasingly finds simple things in life baffling. As he moves through the sometimes alarming and sometimes comical episodes of this novel, a break in the hurtling flow of events looms ahead. Is it safe for Philip to pull out and pass? Tender and magical, and fired by a quietly burning moral engagement, The Invisible Rider asks what it takes to be happy in the world.
[McDougall] captures the absurdist state of motherhood – the battle between biscuits and principles. From the foul-mouthed four-year-old taking “thirty-six hours and a knife to come out” to the “maniac with a hygiene fetish”, the details are droll and true, and the story ends where a preschooler’s logic might lead you. – Sarah Laing, The NZ Listener.
“We liked the wry observation and the, well, yes, maternal affection that drove the story. This was a mother we believed in: put-upon, sick of domesticity, angry, self-doubting, ruthless; yet loving and wry and somehow deeply contented. ‘Clean Hands Save Lives’ is about how families work; it’s about generational power struggle; it’s about how to be a functioning mother. There’s lovely pacing (the scene with the neighbour in the supermarket carpark is pitch perfect); and yet we get a real story, not just a quick sketch of family dynamics—and there’s also a nice sense of comic circularity (the snake with its tail in its mouth) courtesy of some supermarket biscuits.” – Judges’ Report, The Long and the Short of It