Aussie Book Review: The Crushing Season by Peta-Jo

"In the smoky haze of a small town’s cane harvesting season, May grew up as the silent bearer of her father’s vicious beatings. But four schoolmates save her with the simple act of their friendship. 

Now in their thirties and busy with their own lives, the four friends are unaware how important they still are to May: Tate, a ballsy newspaper subeditor is struggling with her new role as mother; Alex, a bohemian soul has let his anxiety get in the way of his future happiness; Leah, the “boy mad” gal is one French backpacker away from her next heartbreak; and Benny, a die-hard romantic is about to give up his dreams and surrender the fantasy of being with the one girl he’s ever loved… Leah.

But it's May that holds their friendship together and she is up to something that will change their lives forever. 

A harrowing, heart-wrenching read for anyone whose high-school friends became their family."

If, like me, you’ve ever lived near a sugarcane farm then I have no doubt that the crushing season conjures up vivid memories of chewing on a piece of cane while the sky filled with the glow of afternoon fires and the sweet pungent smell wafted through the hot, humid air, reminding you of your home town and memorable childhood summers.

While it may invoke a sense of nostalgia in a lot of us, for Peta’s characters this crushing season will signal a turning point for all of them bringing memories to the brim and fanning the flames of reality and all that is wrong with their lives.

As the blurb alludes to, each of her characters struggles with their own demons throughout the novel but for May, the glue who holds them all together, things are rapidly falling apart. After a troubled childhood with a violent, alcoholic father, she remains unable to control the anger and resentment she feels towards him for the life he subjected her to after her mother died when she was just a little girl. As his health continues to deteriorate she is desperate to confront him and have him take ownership but lacks the courage to do so. When he finally passes away, she should feel relief but instead, is left floundering.

Building slowly and meandering along at a gentle pace, like the summer days the friends spent together, The Crushing Season allows the reader to take their time getting to know the five friends and gain an understanding of the personal issues affecting them all.

Brisbane-based author and journalist Peta-Jo’s latest novel revolving around five lifelong friends in their thirties is a story about life – past regrets and pain, unrequited love, sadness, second chances and the friendship that holds them to one another. It’s a book that I was really looking forward to reading, not only because I love stories about the dynamics in friendship groups and what it is that makes those friendships work but also because I felt drawn to the character of May, with whom I share common ground in terms of growing up in an alcoholic home.

Although the writing itself is not without fault and I never quite engaged with it the way I had hoped, there's a lot of heart which carries a touching story of friendship, love, loss, second chances and what it means to come to terms with the cards that life has dealt us. It's also about healing and the unconditional love that can bind friendships together for life, even without sharing our innermost secrets and it is the relationships between the characters that are the driving force behind the story and had me turning the pages so I could see what the outcome was going to be.

Peta’s sense of place, too, is amazing and, being a Queenslander myself, I was drawn into her familiar setting of Brisbane as well as the sugar city of Bundaberg.

On the whole, this is a good book which will have appeal to many readers out there, especially those who are fans of contemporary fiction that touches on tough subjects such as depression, alcoholism and suicide.

If you’re looking for a quick, satisfying read with characters who pack their own brands of baggage that will have you emotionally involved, The Crushing Season is a great choice.

I wish to thank Peta-Jo for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Peta Jo is a seasoned journalist and subeditor who shamelessly embraces the side of her that writes fiction.

Her book, Feral Bells, was released in 2011 under the original title of Wedding Etiquette For Ferals at the Queensland Brides’ Wedding and Honeymoon Expo before being picked up for distribution by Bermingham Books in 2012.

Her second book, The Crushing Season, was  launched in Bundaberg, Queensland.

She currently works from home as a subeditor for regional Queensland newspapers whilst simultaneously feeding, entertaining, educating and, above all, loving her three children (and husband, though he requires far less educating).

She is in the throes of writing her third book.

She can be bribed to be a guest speaker or guest blogger for writing groups on journalism, Romance writing and self-publishing and has conducted writing workshops in the past.


  1. I live near Bundaberg Marcia and thought Peta did a great job at capturing the area and I could easily visualise the burning sugar cane!


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