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The Aussie Zombie

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All We Had by Annie Weatherwax

All We Had: A Novel - Annie Weatherwax

Ruthie and Rita are as close as mother and daughter can be. Living hand-to-hand and boyfriend-to-boyfriend, they are permanently on the edge of disaster. When Rita dumps her latest boyfriend and the two take off, not knowing where they are going, or what to do when they get there. What they find is a small town where the characters are kooky and they fit right in from (almost) the first moment. Ruthie begins to find a place to call home, Rita, rather reluctantly, takes charge of her own life, and they start to put down roots.

The dynamic between Ruthie and Rita is interesting – it is almost like Ruthie is the adult – she holds Rita together and appears much older than thirteen. She’s the one who sorts out a place to live, jobs for both herself and Rita, and keeps up with the housework, all without complaint – it’s the only life she’s ever known, and although she occasionally she shows a bit of frustration, she’s very much a get-on-with-it character.

I adored the relationships that Ruthie formed with the townspeople of Fat River – crossdressing waitress Peter Pam was by far my favourite secondary character, and the kindhearted Mel rounds out the characters that support Ruthie and Rita through good times and bad.

However, the part I liked the most was the way that the characters reverted back to old behaviors when things got tough. We always like to think that ourselves, and other people we know, would be able to keep their positivity and better habits through difficult times, but Rita quickly reverts to her old ways – and Ruthie keeps supporting her, despite the fact that she doesn’t agree with her mother’s choices.

Although Rita should have annoyed me endlessly, I could also see her point of view – she relies on other people to get her through life, so it’s almost impossible for her to change those habits and it’s also admirable that she is willing to sacrifice so much to do what she honestly believes is the best for Ruthie.

At times shocking, at times moving and occasionally frustrating, I enjoyed All We Had – it’s an intimate look at a mother-daughter relationship that doesn’t always fit the traditional mould, with unforgettable characters and some very unique perspectives.