'Barker has a flair for dramatic structure and a lightness of touch. These 10 stories of family dilemmas and dramas have the ring of authenticity. From the tale of the two mothers to the story of the neglected baby and everything in between, Barker's empathetic, intimate knowledge and understanding shine through as she explores and unravels her characters' dilemmas.'

Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald.

'Robin Barker's debut collection of short stories benefits from some of the no-nonsense open-mindedness she uses to such great effect in her non-fiction.
The collection is chronologically ordered and the earliest stories are pithy vignettes from an idea of Australia that has vanished into history. Barker evokes this with great atmosphere and without nostalgia; the warts and wrong thinking remain on view.
The highlight of these is perhaps Blackcat, the story of a young housewife married to a policeman who makes friends via a pet with her Aboriginal neighbour in inner-Sydney Chippendale. It beautifully captures her isolation and the intense friendship between the neighbours that is nonetheless dependent on proximity for its survival.
First Love is a beautifully threaded story of a surrogate pregnancy.
Barker's style bears some resemblance to Alice Munro in that it doesn't appear as style at all; the best of these stories seem to fall out as fragments or as wholes.'

Ed Wright, The Australian.
Close to Home is fiction - or mostly fiction. The first and last stories are non-fiction memoir.

Because of the success of the baby books I thought I would be able to produce something imaginative and inventive quite quickly but as Annie Dillard tells would-be authors in The Writing Life (Harper Perennial, USA, 2013) it takes between two and ten years to write a creative book.
Less is so rare, she says, as to be statistically insignificant. According to Dillard, out of a human population on the earth of seven billion, perhaps twenty people can write a serious book in a year.

So unsurprisingly, Close to Home - after many drafts - took a few years longer than I anticipated. Self-help writing is a doddle in comparison.

The stories are arranged in decades from 1912 to 2010.Aside from the parts of the family memoir that took place before I was born, they  are set during the years I lived and worked in and it's fascinating to see how much has changed in how we live our lives now compared to much of last century.

The Other Grandmother
1912: Family memoir: A story about the disgrace of an 'unwed' mother
and the later difficulties she faces as a widowed mother of three in 1922            
when there was no social security or assistance of any kind.


1956: A teenage story in a time when sexist, racist language and attitudes
was the norm but no one dreamed of saying fuck.

The Greek Father
1960: A young nurse faces night duty alone in a ward of sick children
during the era when restricted hospital visiting meant parents saw
their children only at weekends.

1967: The disappearance of her neighbour’s cat leaves an isolated young housewife
wondering who is to blame.

Josephine's Face
1976: An unworldly army wife learns about racism, her own included,
on a U.S. army base.

First Love
1979: A hit and miss altruistic surrogacy changes the lives of four people.

Baby Royal
1995: A well-meaning but mad couple nearly kill their baby.

Mothers Day
2002: Two mothers fight for custody of their baby

Sharp Teeth
2010: Another teenage story. And haven't things changed since 1956.
        Racist language is out, fuck is in.

The Memento
1942-2009: Family memoir: Violence and redemption in WW2

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