The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett (2021) Review

Everyone deserves justice

Why I picked up the book:

Paulina is the titular newcomer on a small Australian island. After uprooting her whole life and moving to Fairfolk Island, Paulina has spent the past two days finding happiness and throwing it away. She was well known on the island for her antics and erratic behaviour, but that didn’t stop her from making friends who cared for her. Judy visits to celebrate her daughter’s 30th birthday, but Paulina is murdered before she gets the chance.

In a place where outsiders are frowned upon, and islanders protect each other, Judy will fight to make sure her daughter’s killer is brought to justice.

The book through my criteria lens:

I had to adjust my expectations not long into the book. Based on the description, I was expecting a fast-paced, intense thriller. The Newcomer reads more like a contemporary/character study. The mystery is there, but the focus is on the victim and her mother’s grief. The characters were so well-drawn, and the atmosphere was so compelling that I had no problem adjusting my expectations and enjoying the book.

Even though it is not typically what I go for, Woollett’s prose is stunning. The focus of the book is Paulina, the victim, and her mess of a life. She is such an interesting character – not likable at all, but at the same time so vulnerable and sad. If I am honest, though, I wish that the focus on the murdered had been more significant.

I fell in love with the way Woollett described Fairfolk and its inhabitants. I knew nothing about life in small Australian Islands, and the way Woollett described the setting and the culture of the place was so vivid, it felt tangible.

My personal feelings:

Woollett did not waste any time introducing the reader to Paulina, Judy, and their relationship. In the first chapter, we get a clear feeling for who they are. Paulina is a force, and as such, she leaps through the page. She is one of the most real characters I have met. She is complex, intense, vibrant, annoying, magnetic, and detestable.

Through flashbacks, we slowly learn how much of a mess Paulina really is. She seemed to be on a very destructive path of binge drinking and self-sabotaging. She always tried so hard to rub people the wrong way, as if she was terrified of being vulnerable and being rejected. She seems to favour projecting an unbearable version of herself- it’s easier to be rejected or disliked for something you know you can change than to risk people not liking who you are. Leading this life took its toll on Paulina, though. Unspeakable things happened to her, and she never took the time to fight back because she believed she deserved it. Her downward spiral got dark fast.

My heart broke for Judy the whole way through. Even though Paulina treated her like garbage, yet she returned it with nothing but kindness. She was a great mother and wanted nothing more than happiness for her daughter. As a mother, I cannot imagine what it must feel like to know that while you were so angry with them, your child was killed. Judy dealt with it much better than I would.

Some people win the life lottery; Paulina lost hardcore. Self-fulfilling prophecy and self-destruction tendencies made it impossible for her to be happy – she looked for misery and found it until her bitter end.

Enjoyability     9

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          5

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.42

I mention this book in this video:


Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to  Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Scribe UK, and NetGalley or providing me with a copy of The Newcomer.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

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