Kick the Dust – Rhonda Forrest


‘If I close my eyes, it’s easier to hold onto a memory. When I open them, I think it might really be there in front of me.’

After three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Liam Andrews is home safe in Queensland. His weekly life drawing class, full of colourful local artists, helps him manage his post-traumatic stress disorder. But he’s struggling to open up about a past that still haunts him.

Belourine ‘Billy’ is an Afghan refugee who lost everything before arriving in Australia as a child. She finds joy in her daily swims in the lake. After years of upheaval, she’s still searching for a place to call home. But her past makes it hard to trust people.

When Liam and Billy meet, they form an instant connection. But will they ever overcome the past? And will it be together?

A moving story of love, loss and resilience from the author of Two Heartbeats.

My review

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Kick the Dust, by author Rhonda Forrest, is the fourth book I have had the privilege of reading, written by this talented Australian author. Kick the Dust is a heartwarming contemporary novel of loss, trauma, gratitude, love and courage.

Rhonda gently discusses issues with care and understanding, including her comment on loss and feeling that ‘gaping hole’ upon losing one’s mother. The romance within this novel is subtle and sweet, which makes the love all the more genuine and beautiful.

Liam, an artist who spent three tours in Afghanistan lives on a peaceful property in Queensland. He spends every spare moment in his studio or at the local art class, painting the human figure. Billy is a refugee from Afghanistan who has experienced tremendous tragedy and loss in her life. These two characters cross paths, as they take time to swim in the lake each day, in their own designated areas of the same lake. Much like their backgrounds, although distant, there are significant connections.

Painting is an emotive craft. It’s like music or poetry, it’s a way to express feelings, to interpret and portray the feelings of others.’ Art is everything and more in this novel. Painting is explored as an outlet for Liam’s grief, loss and pain, yet is also a way in which connects him and Billy with their past. Billy, who has no family, begins to remember images, smells and significant memories of her childhood and family. Painting is the gateway to healing for both characters.

I particularly enjoyed reading the descriptions of Liam, as he paints. Understanding his passion and thoughts, via his talent, allowed me to feel as if I were sitting in the studio or art class too.

The members of the art class all have their own stories and it is beautiful to see the transformation of thoughts as they get to know one another. Racist and thoughtless comments that we often hear in Australia are challenged and the characters gain a sense of the individual.

This novel challenges people who do not consider others as individuals, rather as one and the same. In Australia there are often opinions circulating that do not consider the horrors experienced by refugees. I hope that we see a positive shift towards acceptance in all communities, as is seen in this novel. I hope that more people provide refugees with opportunities, as Liam attempts to do. I cannot imagine losing my entire family. It is with kindness and love for others that we can help those who have experienced unimaginable devastation and loss.

Those who look deeper than the surface and take their time to look into the work will hopefully see the story.’ This is one of my favourite quotes in the novel. Rhonda’s reference to painting is a metaphor for the way in which we can take the time to get to know someone, rather than simply taking note of appearance.

The title of this novel is truly meaningful and I love where the inspiration for it came from; two young students from Afghanistan who recently arrived in Australia. Without divulging too much in my review, I will say the title is perfect. As a teacher, Rhonda has no doubt had a positive impact on young minds, as she does with her readers. Each novel challenges the reader to think about society as a whole and appreciate what they have in their own lives. Rhonda’s novels all have the ability to encourage the reader to engage with what is truly important in life.

Rhonda has such a unique style and yet again, I found myself in the depths of the world of the characters so much so that I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to be a part of the art class and community, so that I could have a chat with them. I would highly recommend Kick the Dust and hope that many Australians will read this novel that has such relevance in our country.

Thank you Rhonda for sending me a copy of Kick the Dust. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to read your fourth novel and to have two quotes of mine placed in this beautiful book too. Another thought provoking novel from a talented author. Much love.