Title: Random Acts of Unkindness
Author: Anna Mandoki
Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing
Published: 1st July 2022
Synopsis: In an all-too-recognisable Melbourne of the near future, the lives of three very different women become intertwined.
Emily is a researcher at the University, carrying out experiments on overcrowding in rats. Free-spirited Amala is an international student feeling the strong tug of home. Roz is a struggling photographer who has visions of the future, although she tries her best to ignore them.
When Roz foresees a terrible tragedy, she is finally driven to act. But can she turn things around once a direction has already been set? As events rapidly escalate, all three women will be pushed to their limits and forced to revisit the choices they have made.
Dark and compelling, Random Acts of Unkindness is a novel about kindness and cruelty. Above all, it explores the importance of human connection in an increasingly fragmented world.
In Melbourne, in the near future, which I guessed to be at least five to ten years into the future post-pandemic, three women unexpectedly find their lives intertwined, destined to come together and forge new ways of living, it seems. Emily is a researcher, whilst Amala is an international student in Emily’s class. Roz struggles to make a living, and often relies on the support of Careline, where Emily volunteers, to get through the day. She also gets visions and one day, soon, a tragedy will occur, and as life catapults towards this tragedy, Roz, Emily, and Amala begin to get to know each other, something else will unfold that draws them closer together, and show that some relationships and causes become more important than the those that they think are at the start of the novel – and everything will change.
Random Acts of Unkindness is a unique book that explores the fracturing of society and social connections – in a world where people crave some kind of connection, yet they’re just living day to day, only doing what is necessary to get through, to work, to be educated, and to survive. It is a world that felt devoid of any kind of joy, anything outside of the absolute necessities. At times, the novel felt bleak, yet I could sense that it served a purpose in the way the novel unfolded, and the alternating chapters for each character felt like it achieved its goal.
As I read this book, I enjoyed the slow reveal – it suited the tone of this book, and whilst I don’t often pick up futuristic, dystopian-leaning, pandemic-mentioning books, I found this one to be quite interesting. The pandemic was a distant yet all too real memory, yet at the same time, there was a sense that many things had gone back to pre-pandemic ways of being with a smattering of pandemic-era adjustments, and a few changes in the way things like welfare were run – perhaps an all too real warning about what might happen with welfare and to people who rely on it, being denied their necessities based on credit and points systems.
There were one or two plot lines that I thought popped out of nowhere, yet in the context of the story and its setting and time made sense. Though it felt like at least one of these wasn’t fully resolved, we still had a rough idea of what had happened, and in the end, it all seemed to work out as it had to for the three characters. The diversity showed the breadth of community, and the how three very different women – based on age, race, and class at least from what was evident on the page – could connect with each other and form a bond that I felt would last a while – especially between Emily and Amala. They seemed to become good friends as well as teacher and student.
It is the kind of book that needs one to sit with it during and after reading, because there is so much to unpack. It may even require multiple readings to truly get the meaning behind it, as there were times when I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or gain from my reading of this one. Maybe it is not quite the book for me, but it might be just the right book for somebody else. That’s the beauty of being a reviewer – I read books that are for me and not really for me, but that’s okay, because every book has its ideal readers out there. All I can do is share the book and hope that it finds that person and reader. It was an intriguing concept though, and I think it was delivered very well by Anna.