At the age of twenty-one Kristen Todd Harrison, finishing school graduate and heiress to an Australian mega-fortune, has a charmed life mapped out in front of her, but a twelve day tryst with an African-American Marine on leave from Vietnam changes that pampered future. Following his death and the birth of her daughter, the young mother encounters a hail of prejudice and rejection, including from her own mother, the leader of the Sydney social set and doyen of every charity in town.
Refusing to give up her baby, Kristen seeks quick refuge in a marriage that even more quickly proves to be a disaster and embroils her in the shadowy underworld of criminal elements her husband had been part of. She flees with her daughter to the physical safety and moral certainty of the outback, but the fear of those who are after her force her to return to the city and finally face the dangerous world she has fled, regardless of what she must do to protect her most precious love, her daughter.
In Small Measures provides readers with a panoramic view of the wide expanse of geography and social values of mid-twentieth century Australia as novelist Burke takes her young heiress on a dramatic journey to honor a love that so few could understand
Every so often, a book comes along that pushes buttons within us that most people prefer to ignore. In Small Measures by Lynne Burke of Sydney, Australia is one such book. The story is an epic tale of love found and lost, youthful rebellion, and a mother’s love for the daughter she protects while going against the social mores of a country.
In Small Measures holds a mirror to Australian society to reflect the ugliness of racial discrimination, drugs, alcohol, and abusive excesses – the same ugliness that is apparent in every country in one form or another.
We follow Kristen Todd Harrison, heiress to a massive fortune, as she returns to Sydney, Australia from a Swiss finishing school only to be pushed to attend social events by her manipulating mother. Rebelling, she escapes to a friend’s house where she meets African American soldier Martin Solander on leave from the Viet Nam war for some much-needed rest and relaxation. They spend the next twelve days together hidden at her parents’ cottage where they fall in love and she becomes pregnant.
Through her letters, Kristen tells Martin about the baby and they excitedly make plans for the future. But when Martin is killed in Viet Nam, her future changes drastically. Her parents disown her and no one in her society wants to be associated with a mixed race child. Somehow, she manages to find people who help her and her daughter, Martina survive and in return, she pushes those around her to be the best they can be. She helps others even as she refuses to help herself.
Everything she does in her life is for Martina, and wherever they go, people fall in love with the lively, intelligent girl. During a spate of loneliness, Kris turns to alcohol and marries a con man who nearly kills her when he discovers she has been disowned. They divorce and she escapes to the outback to start fresh. Everything is fine for several years until the ranch owner dies and his widow decides to sell out. That’s when Kris’s ex-husband shows up intending to target the new widow.
Because of her ex-husband shady dealings, Kris is befriended by a dirty cop who is involved in the drug trade, but he’s looking for diamonds her ex hid before he was murdered. For years, Kris is stalked and hunted because of the missing diamonds even though she knows nothing about them. Her life goes to hell, but she continues to make sure Martina is taken care of, eventually entrusting her care and education to a childhood friend.
Fear and alcohol fuel Kris’s life and her refusal to accept help from anyone proves to be her undoing. But throughout her life one thing remained constant, her love for Martina’s father, Martin.
This story pokes and prods at the weaknesses of society, shaming us all for whatever prejudices we may harbor while pushing us to do better. Its bittersweet tale of love tugs at your heart and twists your conscience until it hurts. It is exactly the sort of story that translates exceedingly well to the big screen, and I would predict right now that should the right screenwriter see the book, it could become a blockbuster movie. Indeed, the entire time I was reading it, I kept picturing it as a movie.
I believe the book was self-published by the author, and my advice to her was to get the best editor she could find and have it professionally edited and polished. Then look for the best screenwriter available to turn it into a script. If she follows my advice, you’ll be hearing a great deal more from Lynne Burke in the future.
About the author:
From the age of eleven Lynne Burke was inspired, assisted and encouraged by the author of Knock on Any Door, William Motley, until his death in Mexico in 1965. Burke wrote In Small Measures, her first novel, between raising a family and a successful career as a professional fundraiser for several leading charities. She is married, has two grown children and lives in Sydney. She is currently working on her next novel.
Ms. Burke has donated one book of In Small Measures to one lucky follower! All you need to do to win is leave a comment on this review.
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Giveaway is international and will end on January 19th. Winner will be announced on January 20th chosen by Random.org.