As life slips away, Gabriel looks back over his brief twenty years, which have been clouded by frustration and humiliation. A small, unforgiving town and distant, punitive parents ensure that he is never allowed to forget the horrific mistake he made as a child. He has only two friends - his dog, Surrender, and the unruly wild boy, Finnigan, a shadowy doppelganger with whom the meek Gabriel once made a boyhood pact. But when a series of arson attacks grips the town, Gabriel realizes how unpredictable and dangerous Finnigan is. As events begin to spiral violently out of control, it becomes devastatingly clear that only the most extreme measures will rid Gabriel of Finnigan for good.
In a muggy and tired Australian country town, a delicate boy by the name of Anwell lives with his oppressive parents. At age 20, Anwell is wasting away on his deathbed, the victim of an unidentifiable disease. In the meantime, his childhood friend, the wild child arsonist Finnigan, roams with his dog, Surrender, who used to be Anwells. Told in flashbacks, Anwell remembers his moments with Finnigan, his psychotic control-freak parents, his crush Evangeline, Surrender, and the time he and Finnigan came up with a nickname for himself: Gabriel, the angel. So Gabriel was the good boy and Finnigan the bad.
The town of Mulyan has been rampaged by a firebug on and off for the past few years. These fires tear the town apart and alienate Gabriels family even more from everyone. The firebug was never caught, and suspicions and accusations abound and break down any sense of trust this small town could have. The years pass and Gabriels parents become more controlling and restrictive. It is only some time before Gabriel finally snaps, and when he does, what secrets do we the readers learn as a result?
Sonya Hartnett has written a beautiful yet tortuous novel. Poetic elegance flows within every sentence. Every single word has been painstakingly chosen for its significance. And from this prose foundation grows a touching and haunting story about the power of parental abuse on a vulnerable childs mind.