Fred Scully is in another country, a 'desert Irishman' far from home. After two long years of travelling through Europe, he decided to move his family from Australia to western Ireland. Scully arrived weeks ahead of his family to renovate the old farmhouse they'd bought in the shadow of a castle in County Offally, and which he's renovated by hand. Now, at the gate of Shannon's international airport, he anxiously awaits the arrival of his pregnant wife and seven-year-old daughter, envisioning a new life ahead, a fresh start. He has waited for and worried about this for months. He is a man who does not like being alone. The plane lands, the glass doors to the terminal slide open and his daughter emerges. Alone. There is no note, no word of explanation from his wife, only the mute silence of his stunned child. In an instant, Scully's life goes down in flames. This is a story of a marriage in our time. So begins a love-crazed odyssey across Europe, to the underside of the male psyche, in search of a woman vanished.
(Adapted from Trove)
'Tim Winton's female characters show a strong tendency towards self-threatening behaviors, transience and ferocity. This is evident in the violent deaths of Jewel in An Open Swimmer, Maureen in Shallows, Ida's murder in In the Winter Dark [...], Tegwyn's self-harm in That Eye, the Sky, Dolly's alcoholism in Cloudstreet, Eva Sanderson's Hutchence-lookalike death in Breath and, obviously, the ephemerality of mothers in Dirt Music...' (96)