Review: Return Ticket by John Doust, by Kate Lomas Glendenning

Title: Return Ticket
Author: Jon Doust review

Publisher: Fremantle Press
Genre: Historical fiction
Favourite quote: “Perhaps I wash the dishes the way I do because it suggests a way I might have lived – ordered, structured, careful and meditative”

After reading this line at the conclusion of Return Ticket’s first chapter, I was hooked. Perhaps it is my own ritualistic take on the order and procedure of washing dishes, or perhaps it is because I knew that this book was one of those books that has those lines that make you pause. It makes you think and then, as though startled with the length between your thoughts and reading, you continue on, but that one line sits in your thoughts.

Return Ticket is the third book in Jon Doust’s trilogy, One Boy’s Journey to Man. I must confess, I have not read the first two books. To be more specific, I had no idea this book was part of a trilogy. But to be blatantly honest, I did not feel like I was left out of the inner circle; the novel stands well on its own. But it has made me curious about the first two books … I think I have two new additions to my TBR list.

In Return Ticket, Jack Muir ‘returns’ to us! Jack recalls his youth as a restless wanderer who finds his hometown (WA) to be unfulfilling and dreary. Jack’s wandering finds him in Cape Town during the height of apartheid and so he escapes to a kibbutz in Israel. As we follow Jack on his journey, he recognises and discovers love, friendship, and family across time and continents. Although the story is not linear, the jumps between 2018 Kincannup to 1972 South Africa, and 1973 Israel makes for a compelling read. As Jack navigates both political and personal politics, romances, and family issues, we watch as the boy becomes a man.

Return Ticket does not glamorise youth or war, and its exploration into the issues of drugs and racism is raw and unflattering. The novel is stark and does not paint Jack in a continuously favourable light, but instead, Doust reveals the progress Jack makes to become a better man. Although the novel deals with heavy issues, it is not without its humour and light. While I have not read the previous two books in the trilogy (and have those to look forward to), I could not help but feel sadness when I finished Return Ticket. Sadness because I now know the end of Jack’s journey. I have seen him grow up, fall in love, make economic, political, and social decisions that impacted both his and others’ lives. I know how it ends, but I know that I can look forward to discovering the beginning.

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