Life is a minefield of cringes. They await one, ready to mar the most precious moments or, worse, to turn one so risk averse it stunts the possibility of joy.
Rachel Matthews knows all about this and has created a net trio of interestingly introspective and interrelated characters to wallow through the dangers of modern dating, of hope, commitment and kinship.
She has the literary wherewithal to engage the reader’s emotions in their forarys and fates, often with a deliciously witty eye on the foibles and pretensions of social vogue. There are laugh-out-loud and misty moments as one grows close to Minh, Goldie and Bernard. If there’s anything wrong with this gorgeously quirky tale of modern Melbournites, it is that it ends.
Samela Harris, Herald Sun/ Courier Mail/Advertiser/Daily Telegraph/Tas Weekend
A strong voice in Australian writing … Matthews writes absurdity, vulnerability and resilience exquisitely well … You will not only fall in love with the three central characters … you will see yourself in them.
Cheryl Akle, Weekend Australian
Matthews’ third novel is about healing after loss and it is darkly funny, yes, but it offers a lot more than that too. In alternating chapters, we grow to love three very different people: hapless 49-year-old Bernard, recovering from the death of his wife and father in the wake of Melbourne’s lockdowns; his fierce and unforgiving mother, Goldie, who he is furious with; and the singular Minh, 54 and isolated, who comes across Bernard on a dating app. The character we don’t meet is also the book’s warmest: Marvin, the man Goldie and Bernard both lost, who we hope might bring them together.
Steph Harmon, The Guardian
Middle-aged dating had a desperate hue even before the digital era, and it takes on tragicomic colours in Rachel Matthews’ Never Look Desperate, a tale of two lonely hearts trying to find connection after the isolating years of COVID lockdown in Melbourne. Bernard is still in mourning, having lost his wife and father during the pandemic, a loss as keenly felt by his mother Goldie, who frets about her increasingly withdrawn son. Minh changes hairstyles every time she embarks on a short-term relationship, and she’s been through a few. Bernard and Minh strike up a tentative rapport. Yet navigating profound grief, not to mention the shallows and sleaze and bewildering etiquette of dating apps, isn’t easy, and there’s a certain nostalgia for the simplicity of lockdown. Still, getting back in the saddle must be done, even if the very idea of a “new normal” feels like a comic absurdity.
Cameron Woodhead, Age/SMH
Wow. Pick of the year.
RRR ‘On The Blower’
In Matthews’ novel, as Bernard, Goldie and Minh journey toward deeper self-awareness, and forge stronger connections with one another, we gradually come to realise the profound impact of intergenerational trauma and social isolation on each of their lives.
Never Look Desperate is astute social commentary. Highly recommended.
Lisa Hill, ANZlitlovers.com
As the characters Bernard, Goldie and Minh edge towards a greater understanding of themselves, each other and their families, the reader is unravelling the hurt and influence of intergenerational trauma in this complex and endearing story.
This book is impossible to put down and will warm your heart.
Linda Guthrie, Read Plus