AS IF a typical tiny country town doesn’t have enough social divisions separating its people, now Mulukuk’s only bridge has collapsed, severing the sole physical link that once connected the dusty opal-mining community’s geographically separated northern and southern halves.
Affected worst of all by the bridge’s disintegration is Janice, a young mother whose car plummeted into the chasm that runs through the centre of Mululuk when the bitumen beneath her gave way late one night. Now, battered, bruised and barely alive after spending weeks in a coma, Janice has been released from hospital and is back in the house she shares with husband Craig and baby Flora.
The mystery of why the structure fell apart preoccupies the locals. Conspiracy theories are rife.
Plans to break an official ban on using the original bridge’s hastily built replacement are fomented and a protest march is arranged as residents demand the new stretch of roadway be opened.
It’s into the midst of this chaos that teenager Rachel arrives, despatched from faraway Melbourne to the outback by her family to spend time in the care of her uncle Frank, more commonly known to Mulukuk as its priest, Father Nott.
Mulukuk’s characters are as unpredictable as the dugout-riddled countryside in which they live: huffing puffing, bustling organiser Gussy; alcohol-soaked vagabond Charlie, back unexpectedly to visit from Alice Springs; insurance investigator Richard – an unwelcome intruder swirling like an abandoned takeaway coffee cup through the lonely red-crusted streets and unsettling those around him with his intrusive questioning. But in Rachel’s eyes, there’s only one who matters: Shane, a tough, irresistibly handsome 20-something miner who introduces himself as Janice’s estranged brother.
As Mululuk struggles to piece itself back together, how many secrets will be exposed, grubbed – much like opals – out of the grimy, clinging, rust-coloured grit by a mix of perseverance and luck?