Today in the Alley, all day, we will be discussing Cally Jackson's The Big Smoke as part of the Alley Reads Online NA Book Club.

A disclaimer: this discussion does contain spoilers. If you have not finished The Big Smoke, unless you enjoy spoilers (hey - some do!), please do not scroll past the jump or read the comments. If you are too tempted, well, that's not our fault.

Today's discussion will focus on various aspects of Jackson's novel throughout the day; everything from writing, to characters, to plot, and to the major and varied mental illnesses that Jackson incorporates into her story. And anything else you want to talk about that comes up in the comments throughout the day.

But let's begin with first impressions, lasting impressions, and what this book meant to you.

Leave your thoughts, opinions, questions, and anything else in the comments. Remember to be courteous and kind, constructive and honest. This is a discussion, so please visit often and respond to others' comments, too.

I will, of course, kick us off on this subject.

  • The kookuburra is a real animal. It's a bird. Do you remember that children's song? "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree // merry, merry king of the bush is he...." As a child, I really thought the Kookaburra was a made-up animal because it was a weird word & we didn't have those, and I guess as an adult I've never thought about the song again until this book. Seriously memory-changing. (This is silly, but I always remember weird silly things.)
  • On my Nook, this novel comes in at over 1,000 pages (1,076 exactly), and I must say, I was little daunted by that. That's an epic! However, after finishing the novel, and during, I never once thought the story was dragging on or over-developing. I just fell into the story arc and was engaged, so 1,076 pages later I was surprised to find it had been a novel not only worthy of the high page count, but a novel that really utilized the page count in memorable ways. 
  • Parents! Even when parents aren't the best characters in a novel, I absolutely love when they exist. Too often, I think, parents are written out for "ease." It's easier if that complicated relationship connection does not have to be dealt with, sure, but I find it is rarely beneficial to forget about it altogether. (Of course, I do know when it's a legitimate story point for parents to be non-existent, but I've read enough novels where that's obviously been a ease choice, not a fits-the-story choice.) Jackson not only has parents, she has so many parents, many different relationship arcs between her narrators, supporting characters, and all the parents. The parents have their own backstory, their own drama and trauma, and their own graces and flaws, and it all comes into play frequently throughout the story. 
  • At times, though, I was a little taken aback by how self-aware Seb and Ceara were about themselves and their friends and family and lives. Yet, this ended up not being at all what it seemed, so I was as dubbed by their own self-awareness as Seb and Ceara, and that was fantastic. 

In the comments below, leave your own comments. Come back as often as you can to keep contributing to the discussion! 

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  1. I'm covering my eyes right now. :) I just wanted to say I plan on reading this after things settle down in April, and I can't wait!

    1. It's a fantastic novel, so you definitely should!


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