Never Look Desperate is Sedaris meets Fleabag, a tragi-comedy romance set in Melbourne 2023. It features: cremation bling, pineapple underwear, grief and vaccinated cruise ships. The central characters Bernard, Goldie and Minh are everything TED Talks tell you not to be.
The story tackles the absurdity of despair in a recovering world, the liberation from isolation and the wild frontier of middle-aged Tinder.
‘Matthews’s voice is funny and wry and heartbreakingly honest. She has empathy for everyone – even those of us who, like Bernard, are a little bit hopeless but not entirely without hope … ‘
Toni Jordan, author of Pretty if She Smiled More and Addition
‘Rachel Matthews understands the pleasures of tragi-comedy and knows exactly how to deliver them – the giggle that turns into a sob, the delight that morphs into insight, the black humour that assuages grief. The vulnerabilities of her characters make you want to scold them, scoop them up and tell them you love them.’
Sian Prior, author of Shy: A memoir and Childless: A story of freedom and longing
‘Rachel Matthews is an important Australian voice. Her novel, Siren, tackled some of the most difficult territory in white Australian culture with courage, insight and pathos. She brings the same quality of understanding of human thought and impulse to this new work, Never Look Desperate, and layers into it a truly hilarious sensibility. Matthews writes with unflinching honesty tempered by humour and a wise compassion. Touching, funny and sexy, Never Look Desperate is transgressive but hugely readable …’
Clare Strahan, author of Cracked and The Learning Curves of Vanessa Partridge
‘Dense, wry, glorious and tragic … figures who lodge deep in the heart … the unravelling and humiliation of being human … with humour, complexity and wit. There are precarious moments evoked in the wider cultural backdrop to this story–the post-viral anxiety runs like a vein beneath the characters’ every thought. This work feels timely and tender.’
Ilka Tampke, author of Skin and Songwoman
‘I was hooked. Rachel’s characters are always exquisitely crafted, yet utterly real.’
Di Websdale-Morrisey, author of On a Wing and a Prayer
‘Never Look Desperate shines light on generational trauma and the effects it carries through our bloodlines in the most elegant and sophisticated ways. Without being afraid to touch on controversial topics, Rachel Matthews reveals the struggle of each character and their subsequent triumphs, entwining their stories to deliver a masterpiece on fear, resilience and, finally, love.’
Shayling Ngo, journalist, Seven West Media, Perth
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