Looking Out by Fiona McCallum

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

When reading the latest book by Fiona McCallum called Looking Out it took me some time to see the significance of the title. The story focusses on one family and a couple of close friends set in the post pandemic years. Natasha and Mitchell have two bright daughters. Natasha is striving to make a living from her small business while trying to establish herself as an interior designer. Mitchell now works from home as a stock trader and much of the home activities have become his responsibility.

With the current interest rates and cost of living expenses, they are feeling financially stressed and have lost the ability to be open with each other about their feelings. Both the parents, at times, in their highly structured and predictable life, experience separation from the family and feeling like an outsider in their own home. Natasha and Mitchell are both aware that things are not good in their relationship, and they are concerned for each other, but they have lost the art of clear and concise communication and do not know how to bridge the gap which has developed.  Into their lives, at this time, comes Jesse, a charismatic new-to-town locksmith, who offers to help Natasha with client leads. She welcomes the assistance and distraction, while Mitchell sinks further into the background, cutting himself off even more from those dearest to him.

The story is set in South Australia and highlights the attitudes and values that now impact our lives in the 21st century. The daughters, though still in their early teens, are confident and more receptive to new ideas and situations, than the previous generation. The dialogue shows the concern for sustainability as in the linen-flax vs bamboo discussion for bed linen and the sorrow regarding the disappearing of behaviours in social situations such as kindness and manners.

At the end of the book there is a note to readers, telling them that ‘No matter what difficult circumstances you find yourself in – financial stress, addiction, depression, grief, et cetera – there are resources and wonderful organisations and people to turn to…By finding the courage to reach out, you’ve taken the first step to healing and repairing your situation or life’ (351).

This is what happens in the novel Looking Out. Mitchell finally opens up to a family friend and together they work to help mend the problem. This story reminds us that as friends we should always be ‘looking out’ for our friends and this is no doubt the message of the cover title. The back cover of the book suggests this – ‘Who is looking out for whom, and who is hiding from the truth?’

Fiona McCallum is an Australian bestselling author with over a dozen books to her credit. She is the author of heart-warming stories of self-discovery and strong friendships. While finding this story a little depressing at the beginning, buoyed only by the presence of the children and their perspective on life and the brief get-together of Natasha and her friends, once I had completed the story everything seemed to slot into place. This is a story which has much to remind us about regarding inter family relationships and the importance of long-lasting strong connections with others outside the family circle.

Looking Out


by Fiona McCallum

HQ Books Harper Collins


$29.99; 368pp


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