adrift cover

The Skeleton Coast of Namibia on the west coast of Africa, an isolated and treacherous coastline, is a barren and hauntingly beautiful graveyard for shipwrecks.  

Accompanied by her teenage son, Mark, Charlie Brokenshaw is in Africa to pay her respects to her recently deceased mother.  Burdened by her own crumbling marriage, Charlie finds she must set out to the Skeleton Coast to track down her son when her eccentric father takes him on a fishing trip, with little idea of just how hazardous her passage will become. 

Kathy George’s novel ADRIFT is a poignant and compelling account of a mother’s journey, and an exploration of the complex nature of guilt and love.

In Store Price: $27.95 
Online Price:   $26.95

ISBN: 978-1-921731-31-0   
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:248
Genre: Fiction

Cover photograph of Atlantic Ocean, Skeleton Coast: courtesy of Reinhold Winzen

Cover - Clive Dalkins


Author: Kathy George
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English


About the author 

Kathy George lives in Brisbane. She was the winner of the 2009 Hal Porter Short Story Award and is studying Creative Writing at QUT. Adrift is her first novel.


The room is small and empty except for the pine chair and the desk at the window. A black laptop, shut, sits on its surface as does a photograph in a varnished wooden frame, nothing more. The floorboards are bare, and the slatted chair against the desk upright, hard and wooden. The walls are without pictures, the paint yellowed with age.

Grey dawn light sifts softly through the threadbare linen curtains, falling on the desk, the laptop and photograph. It is a picture of a boy, a boy in school uniform with dark curly hair, deep brown eyes and a wide mouth.

She comes into the room then, warming her hands around a mug of coffee. She puts down the mug, stills her hands on the back of the chair and looks at the boy. She looks at him for a long time, and then, deliberately, she moves away and opens the curtains with an aggressive swish. 

Before her stretches a wide expanse of beach, then the cold pale sea, which rises and hurls itself, over and over and over again on the numb sleeping sand. Across the parchment-coloured sky, cormorants fly silently north in a steady stream, unfurling like so many yards of thin black ribbon.

She inches open the window. She hears the hush of the waves breaking, the backwash scraping painfully over the shelly sand. She stands there for some time, her thin fingers clutching the damp salty window-frame. Watching. Watching and waiting. Listening.

At last she moves to the desk, seats herself and opens the laptop. After a minute she takes a deep, unsteady breath and with deliberation begins to type.

She wants to start with some kind of introduction, perhaps to say that it began on a day like any other, or possibly to claim that she had no inkling of what was to come.

But she cannot find the right words. She’s not a writer. She’s a lawyer, a person concerned not with supposition or imagery or the poetry of rhythm, but with facts and the apportionment of blame.






Turning away from the check-in counter at the airport, I was struggling to hoist my overnight bag over my shoulder and reach for my small leather backpack with an already laden hand, when Gerry took the passports and boarding passes helpfully out of my hand. I saw him glance at them.

“Mark’s travelling business class?”

“Yes,” I said firmly. “It was the only way I could get him a seat.”

“Business class,” Gerry repeated. “I can understand you travelling business, but Mark?”

“Look, if it’s a concern, I paid for his ticket. I paid for my mine too,” I added unnecessarily.

He smacked the tickets lightly against the palm of his hand.

“You needn’t have done that.”

“But I did. I do have money of my own.”

“I’m all too aware of that.” 

The heavy overnight bag was threatening to fall off my shoulder again, and I went down on my haunches to adjust its shoulder strap.

Talking above my head Gerry said, “You know I can’t go with you, the least I could have done was stand you the trip.”

“I don’t see why,” I said. “This is about my family…”

“Charlie,” he said admonishingly.

I looked up at him. The lines around his eyes were tight with frustration.

“If you really want to,” I said, “you can put some money into my account.”

“Thank you. I’d like to do that.”

To be fair, he had actually made a token offer to go with me, to undertake the long journey and the drama of my mother’s funeral on the other side, but he knew and I knew that it was out of the question. He was also aware that we needed some time apart. If he hadn’t been heavily involved at work, I don’t know how I would have responded. Would I have admitted that I wanted to go alone?

I straightened up at last and tucked my shirt back into my jeans. “Where’s Mark?” I said distractedly.

“Gone to get a Coke. Look, you will be back by the end of the holidays, won’t you?”   

“Of course I’ll be back.” Australia was my home. Why wouldn’t I return? I’d lived there for twenty years and I was quite Australianised – for instance I got teary when I heard a didgeridoo. I also got teary when I heard African voices in harmony, but would never admit it. Why would I? I’d shut that life behind me.

I wondered briefly if Gerry was worried that I might take the opportunity to do something silly – as in to leave him. I stopped fidgeting with my luggage and glanced at him and the bagginess under his eyes and puffy grey skin. I knew he wasn’t sleeping well, neither was I.

He turned to me but I looked away, making it my business to look everywhere but at him. We’d got into a pattern of doing this, of taking it in turns to check our phones or remove imaginary fluff from our clothing while the other was trying to make eye contact to say something. This time I had plenty of distractions. Melbourne airport is no different from any other large international airport, and it is crammed with noise, colour and humanity. Craning my neck I saw Mark in the distance, clutching his Coke and ambling back to us, side-stepping travellers and the well-wishers that accompany them.

“You really should go,” I said. “Mark and I will be fine. I am sure you have a hundred-and-one things to attend to at the office.”

“Nothing that can’t wait.”

Gerry was still watching me, willing me to meet his eyes, but I made a show of slinging the heavy overnight bag over my shoulder, making it clear that I wanted to be on my way.

I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. If he was going to tell me he was leaving me, I didn’t want to carry that burden all the way to Africa and back. If it was the very opposite: that he had no intention of leaving me, that he craved understanding over his affair, I didn’t want the responsibility of that, either. Not without an apology. It was only two words – I’m sorry – but I doubted whether they would ever be forthcoming.

If my husband had told me that he loved me, I would have gone into his arms and cried. But Gerry very seldom told me that he loved me. I knew he wouldn’t – not here in an airport full of people. At last I looked at him, but now it was his turn to look away.  

Gerry is slightly built and he wears his grey hair cut fashionably short. He isn’t really a handsome man, but he has presence. He has a hooked nose, a way of holding himself that commands instant respect, and fiercely intelligent hazel eyes. He has been known to make articled clerks (including myself) tremble just by glancing at them. And when he finally looked at me, I very nearly crumbled.

He pushed the fat wad of boarding passes and passports at me. “We need to talk,” he said, then leaned forward and lightly pecked my cheek before stepping quickly back, as if he could no longer bear to be near me.  

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. We’d had at least two weeks in which to talk about his affair and we’d said nothing – nothing of value, nothing about Mark – I couldn’t see that changing any time soon. It concerned me that he hadn’t discussed our son with me. Gerry had been in a total apoplexy before about Mark’s sudden odd habits, his lack of interest in schoolwork, and his slovenly appearance, now these things didn’t rate a mention. Neither did he seem to be concerned about any effect his affair might have had on Mark, any psychological damage, after all it had been Mark who’d seen them together. Gerry seemed to have overlooked this. In hindsight, he seemed to be in a daze, carrying on as before, as if nothing, not even a breath of air, had disturbed the surface of the millpond that was his life.

He took Mark off with him for some last minute manly advice, and when my son brushed against me some minutes later, he was alone. He plucked his boarding pass out of my hand, and without a backward glance, proceeded through the Passengers Only gate to customs. I thought he was probably distressed about leaving his father. But I glanced back before I followed, not quite believing that Gerry had taken my advice and left without seeing us off, but for once I was wrong about him – he was nowhere in sight.

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