Books

The ShortRead: Jax Miller

The ShortRead of 8 July

Freedom's Child

Author: Jax Miller

What's the story: It's that time of year when a week-long stretch of lying down in a patch of warm weather next to a body of cold water becomes the only thing to occupy your mind - resulting in you totally forgetting to take a holiday read. We'd suggest sticking Jax Miller's debut novel in your bag: an unsettling, jarring thriller that'll have you tearing through chapters at page-ripping speed.

It concerns the life of one Freedom Oliver, a woman who works at a biker bar in a small Oregon town, known for her drunken rants and fearless behaviour. What's not known about her is her darker backstory. The locals don't know she was arrested for killing her husband, a cop, twenty years ago.  They don’t know she put her two kids up for adoption.  They don’t know that she’s now in witness protection, regretting ever making a deal with the Feds, and missing her children with a heartache so strong it makes her ill. 

One thing's for sure - it'll be a memorable holiday if this is in your suitcase.

Release date: 30 July

Extract

My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter. It’s surreal, honestly, and I’m not sure what feels more like a dream, her death or her existence. I’m guilty of both.

It wasn’t long ago that this field would ripple and rustle with a warm breeze, gold dancing under the blazes of a high noon sun. The Thoroughbreds, a staple of Goshen, would canter along the edges of Whistler’s Field. If you listen close enough, you can almost hear the laughter of farmers’ children still lace through the grain, a harvest full of innocent secrets of the youthful who needed an escape but didn’t have anywhere else to go. Like my Rebekah, my daughter. My God, she must have been beautiful.

But a couple weeks is a long time when you’re on a journey like mine. It could almost constitute something magnificent. Almost.

I catch my breath when I remember. Somewhere in this field, my daughter is scattered in pieces.

Goshen, named after the Land of Goshen from the Book of Genesis, somewhere between Kentucky’s famous bourbon trails in America’s Bible Belt. The gallops of Thoroughbreds that haunt this dead pasture are replaced with the hammering in my rib cage. The mud cracks below me as I cross the frostbitten field, steps ripping the earth with each fleeting memory. The skies are that certain shade of silver you see right before a snowstorm; now, the color of my filthy fucking soul.

I’m reminded of the sheriff behind me with an itchy finger and a Remington aimed between my shoulder blades. I’m reminded of my own white-knuckled grip on my pistol.

Call me what you will: a murderer, a cop killer, a fugitive, a drunk. You think that means anything to me now? In this moment? The frost pangs my lungs in such a way that I think I might vomit. I don’t. Still out of breath, I use the dirty robe to wipe blood from my face. I don’t even know if it’s mine. There’s enough adrenaline surging through my veins that I can’t feel pain if it is.

“This is it, Freedom,” the sheriff calls out in his familiar southern drawl. The tears make warm streaks over my cold skin. The cries numb my face, my lips made of pins and needles. There’s a lump in my throat I can’t breathe past. What have I done? How the hell did I end up here? What did I do so wrong in life that God deemed me so fucking unworthy of anything good? I’m not sure. I’ve always been the one with the questions, never the answers.