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The Ballad of Banjo Crossing

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A tender, heartwarming and utterly appealing novel about the power of community, love, loss and second chances. Jack McPhail is a man on the run from his past, a drifter who lands by accident in a sleepy outback Australian town called Banjo Crossing. Jack - almost despite himself - becomes slowly drawn into the town, its community, its characters and its concerns.He's on the brink of falling in love with Mardi, a young widow and owner of the local coffee shop, when the community is confronted and divided by an unexpected development. A coal mining company has come to town, intent on buying up the local properties to build an open cut mine. The town of Banjo Crossing rallies together to fight off the threat. Jack wants to help out his new friends, but if he does, he's at risk of his past being exposed. Having his secret out there could change everything for him. Will he help them out, even if it costs him his second chance at happiness?'Highly topical and engaging ... incubating a mystery which must not be revealed until the exact psychological moment ... entertaining and charismatic' Adelaide Advertiser

336 pages, ebook

First published November 20, 2011

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About the author

Tess Evans

7 books31 followers
I was raised in the Melbourne suburb of Clifton Hill and now live among the trees in Eltham. I am married with three grown children and four grandchildren. I love to travel, my most intense experiences being walking the Inca Trail and riding a camel in the Sahara desert.

Something about my working life. (I don't holiday all the time)

I worked in schools, full-time at first, and then as an emergency teacher when my children were small. When they started school, I moved to TAFE were I began as a teacher, then manager of programs for long-term unemployed. This was a very satisfying part of my life – we did some great work in those programs. When the funding was withdrawn, I worked in the money-making area – a challenge, but not as rewarding personally.

My job required a lot of writing--tenders, reports, curriculum--even advertising, but it wasn't until I took early retirement that I was able to tap into the stories and poetry that were waiting somewhere in my head. Beginning with poetry, I was delighted to win a prize with a poem I had submitted to a competition. Then I won an encouragement award for a short story. (I had no idea
how encouraging those encouragement awards can be.) Along the way, I joined a writers' group and began to attend a class at my old TAFE. Again, I was overwhelmed by the support I received from these people.

I was a late starter...

My first novel, Book of Lost Threads, was published by Allen and Unwin in
2010. My second novel, The Memory Tree was published in March 2012.

The third is a work in progress, and will give me the excuse to
visit the Darling Downs.

Book of Lost Threads was
published the year I turned sixty.

... so it's never too late

The Memory Tree is Tess Evan's second novel. Her first, the bestselling Book of Lost Threads, was published in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Indie Awards, 2011. Previous to her writing debut, Tess taught and counselled a wide range of people: youth at risk, migrants, Indigenous trainees, apprentices, sole parents and unemployed workers of all ages and professions. Her experience with people is clearly visible in her humane, compassionate writing.

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5 stars
16 (12%)
4 stars
44 (35%)
3 stars
51 (40%)
2 stars
13 (10%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,267 reviews113 followers
November 22, 2017
“Banjo Crossing pulsed with news and activity. Everyone had an idea or knew someone who had an idea or remembered something they had read or seen on the telly. It was as though The Plains had revealed a long-invisible heart that began to pump oxygen and purpose from its trunk to its farthest extremities. Over the back fence or shop counter, in the streets and paddocks, pubs and buses: speaking face to face, using technology old and new, the people of The Plains connected.”

The Ballad Of Banjo Crossing is the fourth novel by Australian author, Tess Evans. Young widow and mother of two, Mardi Lawrence keeps herself busy with The Drover’s Wife café and is very involved with her town, Banjo Crossing. It has been five years, and she still misses him: “Tom had brought richness to her life, and now it was depleted. Her days were full, but once the children were settled, the nights in her hollow lounge room, her neat, feminine bedroom, were long. She missed the casual intimacy of touch, the small exchange of the day’s news, the silly, shared jokes.”

When a newcomer with a backpack walks into her cafe, the last thing on her mind is romance. But he keeps coming back and, despite his reticence about his past, they form a friendship. Jack McPhail has plenty to hide, but he is practiced at deflecting personal questions, and before long the town seems to accept him. And it feels like a good place to settle. He begins to care about these sincere and unpretentious country people, and a certain café owner, in particular.

When two cagy strangers turn up in Banjo Crossing and set up shop, the rumour mill does overtime, with the townsfolk speculating that a MacDonald’s or a shopping centre is in the pipeline. These prospects are divisive enough, but when the truth becomes known, the town is split by the environmental and social issues raised. Jack soon finds himself as deeply involved as long-time residents. But can they win against big business?

The country town that Evans serves up with her evocative descriptions is easily recognisable to anyone who has spent time in a rural area. She gives the reader a cast of townspeople who are, despite their faults and failings, their weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, their insecurities and personal agendas and, in some cases, their deep, dark secrets, essentially good folk.

There are many appealing characters but perhaps the star of the show is Felicia Compton-Ballard: “In her glamorous and privileged youth she had swept into a room and despite the walking stick and almost sensible shoes, still expected the same reaction from her audience. She stood in the doorway and surveyed the café, finally staring down her hawkish nose at the strange man sitting in her place by the window. ‘I think you’ll find that’s my table,’ she said, enunciating each vowel, crisping her consonants like lettuce.”

Within a beautifully apt cover, Evans touches on subjects both topical and age-old: controversial land development, farm succession, the plight of carers, and the power of a united community (with a modern twist). Emotions run high, and guilt, grief and mourning and, of course, love, all feature. There��s a good dose of humour, with many laugh-out-loud moments, but also sadness: only the most stoic reader will fail to develop a lump in the throat or have tears well up at a certain point of the story. Evans has a talent for marvellous descriptive prose. This heart-warming tale may just be her best yet.
With thanks to Harper Collins Australia and the author for this uncorrected proof copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Donna Derons.
103 reviews2 followers
July 18, 2018
3.5 stars
This book reminded me very much of the blueberry muffin that appears on the cover. I grant you that this is an odd analogy, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it. It was sweet, old fashioned, the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. The kind of book that warms you, that’s just a tiny bit twee, baked in line with a traditional recipe, tasty and comforting. Some sadness, echoed in the sharp taste of blueberries, but overall a joy. The kind of book you could recommend quite happily to your nanna, provided she doesn’t mind a couple of expletives along the way and an M rated sex scene.
To be honest I nearly gave the book an extra half star because it was written by someone who lives not twenty minutes’ drive from my house, according to her goodreads bio. No fear, I’m not a stalker! How exciting though, I had no idea, I might run into her at the shops one day, ooooer! Erhum. Not that authors make me remotely star struck noooooo (did I mention I know Sarah Schmidt and I once got an actual email from Monica McInerney? Honestly I am hopeless. International readers will think me a twit.)
Anyways. This book was gentle and lovely. It must be said that it was a tiny bit predictable, but I think this added to the overall effect. A blueberry muffin would not be a blueberry muffin if it had a pickled onion in it. It’s not a thriller and the big reveal isn’t jaw dropping (more of an ohhhhh yes of course moment) but it kept me engaged. I liked the characters in the small town of Banjo Crossing, the solidarity and prejudices of the small town, the noble portrait of a woman with early signs of dementia. If you’re a fan of gentle novels, romance and an old fashioned yarn, give this one a go. And if I run into the author at the shops I’ll say thank you from us both.
I did listen to the audio version.
Profile Image for Nadia King.
Author 12 books77 followers
December 3, 2018
A lovely book set in a small Aussie country town. Great characters, and an interesting and entertaining story. This would be a great book for relaxing with over the holidays.
Profile Image for Jane Says.
9 reviews2 followers
November 19, 2018
I am disappointed with this book. There was not enough feeling to portray what otherwise was a great story. The characters are one dimensional and none of them were relatable.

1. Mardi. She is a widow who struggles with moving on from her deceased husband. There were many scenes in the book with her missing her husband, but none of these scenes got to me. They were lacking the descriptive language and depth of feeling of a grieving widow.

2. Jack: I can’t for the life of me understand why his secret was so difficult to share with a woman he was falling in love with. Once we found out what it was, it was a horrible moment of “what in the world...” for me. I felt cheated. The way Jack and the narrator guarded his secret made it sound so much worse than what it actually was. Ugh. It made me feel like I trudged through a so-so book for the hook that ended up letting me down.

3. The old lady and her daughter. Really? There is so much depth of feeling involved with this type of dynamic (middle aged daughter “trapped” into taking care of elderly mum, who is also in mental decline), but the author did not delve into this AT ALL. I feel like the situation was simply REPORTED to us, but with none of the feeling. There’s a scene where Mardi is present during the preliminary memory test for the lady (also a very unbelievable thing to accept, that a doctor would be willing to do this with a non-family member in attendance). The best that the narrator could do at the heart-breaking results is to say that she felt bad. C’MON!!! It’s incredibly heart breaking to witness an elder acquaintance struggle with their mental faculties, yet somehow all this scene elicits is that Mardi felt bad. Ugh.

Overall I find this book very disappointing in regards to conveying emotion. I feel like I read an overall interesting story with interesting characters, but none of which were elaborated on and I could relate to nothing. I was hooked by the blurb of the book as I have also lived in a town much like Banjo Crossing as an outsider, so I thought at the least I would be able to relate to Jack. But while all of the events and aspects of such a small town portrayed in the book were FAMILIAR to me as things that come along in a small rural Australian town, I simply could not FEEL any connection to it.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tanya.
513 reviews36 followers
January 9, 2020
In the interest of full disclosure - I didn't expect to like this book. It's not one that I would have picked up off the shelf. I got it in a mystery box from my local bookstore, and so it went onto the TBR shelf. It didn't sound like my kind of thing though, so it sat there for a while. I only decided to read it because I wanted it off the shelf - I figured I'd try a few chapters and if I didn't like it then it could go.

But see, I guess the fates that caused me to pick that exact mystery box knew I needed to read this book. I actually really enjoyed it.

The Ballad of Banjo Crossing is about the small town of Banjo Crossing (their name and claim to fame is that poet Banjo Patterson apparently once passed through). Jack McPhail is passing through and decides to stop at the pub for a few nights. He had his secrets, but it's not long before he's an accepted part of the town.

In addition to Jack we get to know Mardi, a widow with two children who also runs the town's cafe. She is the first to set eyes on Jack, and it's mainly through her eyes we see the goings on of the town.

It's hard to say too much without getting spoilery, but it was just a really pleasant read. The people were down to earth and wholesome, and the book just completely nailed that country, small town feel. A very unexpected pleasure.
Profile Image for Joan.
607 reviews6 followers
December 28, 2017
I received this book as a giveaway from Goodreads.A man with a secret comes to town and finds the people, the place and the fight he could immerse himself in and maybe find peace. Coal mining was threatening those on the land, The farmers and their personal stories moving, sometimes to tears. A wonderful picture of a community fighting to protect their way of life- not all in agreement, but many passionate enough gave it their all . Some very colourful characters and individual dramas depicting the struggles in their lives.
Profile Image for Tianne Shaw.
157 reviews8 followers
December 24, 2017
Now Banjo Crossing could be one of many towns around battling to avoid the coal industry. Take one out of towner who could have become noticed whilst this quaint place battles for what they know and love. Beautifully written and so glad I got an arc from giveaways to enjoy this treasure
Profile Image for Lee.
650 reviews4 followers
January 4, 2018
In some ways, this is a typical romance, but...it is so much more. Set on a small Australian town, Banjo Crossing, where everybody knows your name. Populated with interesting and caring citizens who are torn apart on the issue of whether a coal mine should be allowed in the area.
Profile Image for Nicola Neil.
134 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2018
If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be: pleasant. It's a nice novel about (mostly) nice people in a nice country town. An easy, gentle read that carries the reader along on a wave of homely charm.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
406 reviews4 followers
May 27, 2018
A stranger arrives in Banjo Crossing and soon becomes part of the community, but of course he is hiding from something. It did not take me long to fall in love with the characters of Banjo Crossing and their lives. The story is a heartwarming look at country life, community spirit and love.
Profile Image for The Bookshop Umina.
904 reviews28 followers
November 28, 2017
A lovely Australian novel with really likeable characters. Enjoyable rural/small town backdrop. A good one for someone who like a gentle read with some drama and romance.
Profile Image for Gail Wylde.
677 reviews14 followers
March 21, 2020
A nice read, full of colourful characters, an air of mystery all done with humour and a tear or two. I will be recommending this to friends and family.
Profile Image for pollymuz.
586 reviews
October 15, 2020
I struggled reading this book and decided to go to audio. Once I start listening to the book I really enjoyed it. Maybe be that says something about my reading abilities. Lol
Profile Image for Roxy.
563 reviews39 followers
January 13, 2018
I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of this book through goodreads giveaways.
The Ballad of Banjo Crossing has a distinctly Australian voice. It feels like a real story about a real country town. Anyone that has stopped into a country town in Australia will immediately conjure up the visual elements and feel like they know the landscape. The local characters are just what you would expect for a rural Aussie town. It is well plotted, and the undercurrent touches on issues that many rural areas all over the world have had to deal with. The romance element is sweet and i was surprised at Jack's secret. It didn't totally wow me, but it was a quiet and easy read that flowed well and kept me interested.
10 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2018
Such a gentle, warm, perceptive, funny and entertaining novel - and so moving too - at one point I found myself in tears. Tess Evans is a wonderful author, and I've enjoyed all her novels.
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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