Toni Jordan's Nine Days is an Australian family saga focused on a handful of moments in the lives of the Westaway family between 1939 and 2001. Jordan (The Addition) was inspired by a newspaper photograph of a soldier leaning out of the window of a train, reaching out to a girl on the platform. She is being lifted toward him; they are almost kissing, but not quite.
The book begins with Kip Westaway, 15, who lives in a working-class Melbourne suburb. He's recently quit school to work at the furniture shop next door after his father's death (his twin brother, Francis, is still in school and mighty haughty about it). His mother, a sourpuss and a bad parent, has taken in a boarder. Every scintilla of information the reader receives about this first day--Kip's day--is important and relevant through the years, even the shilling given to Kip by the good-hearted Mr. Hustings, his employer.
In the story's eight other days, we learn of life-changing decisions: some necessary, some revelatory, some very difficult. One is about Kip's daughter, Stanzi, who is a counsellor--not quite a psychiatrist, but one who listens and tries to help. Today's client is a kleptomaniac, among other things, and when Stanzi leaves her office, she realizes that her father's shilling, which she was going to have framed for him, has disappeared. A logical conclusion is drawn, but it is the wrong one--with immediate consequences for Stanzi.
The days skip back and forth in time, touching on the lives of Mr. Husting's son Jack, who returns to Melbourne from a rural sheep station and becomes smitten with Kip's sister Connie; Francis, who never lived up to the expectations of others; Kip's grandson Alec, who performs a kindness to his grandfather--and saves his own life in the process... all of the stuff of life. Jordan renders this extended family's interwoven story in gorgeous layers of warmth, understanding and casual cruelties, interspersed throughout with good humor and perfectly rendered dialogue. The final story, Connie's, provides the last thread of the tapestry, hearkening back to that picture at the train station.
Jordan's fully realized story and excellent characterizations put the reader in the picture completely. She makes it hard to leave. --Valerie Ryan
Shelf Talker: In spare but rich prose, Jordan shows all the love, fear, tenderness, disappointment, joy and sadness any life could hold.