Kirkus reviews The Last Asbestos Town

In Hagemann’s novel, a feckless young couple trust in supernatural powers to save their dream home from demolition in a small town in Western Australia.

May and Isaac Lyons have just bought a dilapidated former Girl Guide Hall in the idyllic country town of Farmbridge, hoping to renovate it into a combined home, dress shop, and painting studio without obtaining the necessary construction permits to do so. It turns out that the hall is haunted by the ghost of a murdered teenage goth girl who had a creepy obsession with the occult and who now moves objects around at night. It’s also threatened with imminent demolition by the government’s Asbestos Task Force, known as the “Grey Shirts,” even though the couple firmly believes that the building doesn’t contain any asbestos. Practical May sells her handmade fashion creations online and finds solace in nature; however, spontaneous, childlike painter Isaac is in debt to a violent drug dealer. On the first day of his dismal new day job at a bauxite refinery, he befriends a young Indigenous man named Steve,whose grandfather Kal is a respected elder; together, they hatch a scheme to scare off both the dealer and the A.T.F. The author packs a lot of ideas and action into fewer than 200 pages in this debut novel, and the juxtaposition of realistic and supernatural elements is intriguing and unsettling, by turns. However, although the characters are original and well-drawn, their actions don’t always make sense; May and Isaac are surprisingly manipulative and secretive toward each other for a couple that’s also shown to be so passionately in love, for example. Hagemann’s prose can be lyrical and evocative, as in detailed descriptions of the town’s river and its wildlife. Other times, though, it can be awkward: “Joe had a stout body, a fat stomach including his neck.”

An often entertaining, if unevenly executed, tale of the extraordinary lengths that people can go in pursuit of their dreams.   Read full review here….  “KIRKUS REVIEWS’

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

I have posted this review verbatim as I think it’s a very honest take on the novel. More positive also, than I expected considering I follow (a not-so-good) review of John Grisham’s latest novel “Sooley”.