Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 24, 2017

‘Joiner Bay’ by Laura Elvery, from Joiner Bay and Other Stories (2017), edited by Ellen Van Neerven – and a book giveaway too!

Joiner Bay and Other Stories is a collection of seventeen stories on the theme of finding oneself and others, selected by editor Ellen Van Neerven from 200 entries in the 2017 Margaret River Short Story Competition.  I’ve read the winning entry by Laura Elvery.   Laura’s work has been published in The Big Issue Fiction Edition, Kill Your Darlings, Award-Winning Australian Writing and Griffith Review, so hers is a name to keep an eye on, eh?

Please note that this review discusses teenage suicide.  If it raises any issues for you, help is available at Beyond Blue or Kids Helpline or Sane Australia or your local services.

Elvery’s story, ‘Joiner Bay’, tells the tale of a schoolboy who runs to make sense of his best friend’s suicide, and I can see why it won.  With first person narration of this boy’s interior world, she has captured the pseudo-laconic speech that so often characterises adolescent male behaviour.  Here in her opening paragraph you can see him using distractors to make it look as if he doesn’t care, and trying to exercise control of others by deciding what is and isn’t important, and judging others by deciding in advance whether they care or not.  And then he makes his demand: they will be made to care…

I’m a runner.  I don’t get pocket money for jobs or just because.  Dad tells everyone how if I run 10 ks he’ll give me five bucks.  If I get a PB I get five dollars more.  We have the rowing machine and the weights and a bench press in the spare room now.  I’ve been running more lately, and someone else, like a psychologist, might say it’s because my best friend died recently.  But people can say what they like, and they still won’t know the truth, even if they believe it.  Even if they tell other adults while I’m in the room.  My best friend’s name was Robbie.  You don’t need to know his last name, because nobody cares about that.  But what you will care about is that he killed himself, and you’ll care how he did it: with a cord and a beam to hang from, which means he probably broke his neck, and then he probably stopped breathing.  That’s the order of things.  (p. 226-7)

In a story of less than ten pages, the characterisation is economical.  There is the narrator, his father, a teacher and the dead boy.  Yet Elvery manages to convey important elements: we know that Dad is a loving father because he sits up all night beside his son, knowing that he must break the news in the morning.  We know that the teacher is the right blend of business-as-usual and concern because he respects his student’s space.  And we know Robbie through memories of shared activities and from the way his love for his little sisters is manifested.  We see hints of misplaced guilt about ‘missing the warning signs’ too:

The week before it all happened, he followed me around the library at the end of lunch, bored, slipping books out and putting them back spine-in.  He found a hardcover about celebrities who died young and he kept coming back to the shelf to read it.  He showed it to me.  I think I thought it was funny. (p. 231)

The Introduction by editor and Mununjali woman Ellen Van Neerven makes it clear that there are plenty more good stories in this collection.  I’ll mention just two from the blurb:

Second prize winner Else Fitzgerald’s work has appeared in Visible Ink, Australian Book Review, Award Winning Australian Writing and Offset. Her story ‘Sheen’ leaves the reader questioning what it is that makes up humanity.

The South West Prize winner Leslie Thiele has had her short fiction commended and shortlisted in various competitions. Her story ‘Harbour Lights’ details the emotional turmoil created by a painful confrontation.

Interested?  Margaret River Press is offering a copy for a giveaway.

Be in it to win it!  Please indicate your interest in the Comments box below and I’ll select a winner using a random number generator round about the end of next month.  Previous giveaway winners are welcome!

All entries from readers with an Australian postcode for delivery will be eligible but it is a condition of entry that if you are the winner, you must contact me with a postal address by the deadline that will be specified in the blog post that announces the winner.   (I’ll redraw if this deadline isn’t met).  I will pass on the postal address to Margaret River Press and they will post the book to the winner.

Author: Laura Elvery
Title: Joiner Bay and Other Stories
Publisher: Margaret River Press, 2017
ISBN: 9780648027508
Courtesy of Margaret River Press.

If you can’t wait to see if you are a winner, you can buy a copy from Fishpond Joiner Bay and Other Stories: Margaret River Short Story Competition: 2017, or direct from Margaret River Press.



  1. Great to see strong WA writers represented in this collection. I’d love to win a copy. Post Code 7005


  2. Hello Robyn, you’re back! Did you have a great time? And #NoPressure are you writing another book? (#Hint: I really liked Wildlight)


  3. The short story form a great medium Lisa and this sounds a fabulous collection I’d love to read when i return to 3195😉


  4. I didn’t know there was a Margaret River story competition or even a Margaret River Press (just 200 km down the road) but I’ve googled it now and am full bottle.


    • I haven’t been to Margaret River for 20 years or so, but I get the impression that there’s a strong artistic community there. They have only just had their annual lit festival, earlier this month:)


  5. Of course I am in. 4020.


    • *chuckle* I knew you would! You reviewed their last collection, I think?


  6. […]  I have reviewed both her short story collection Heat and Light and the collection she edited, Joiner Bay and can recommend these books to readers.  But that is not the point.  Nobody should be using […]


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