The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock is an escapist novel reminiscent of the Rosie Project and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Mercy Blain has not left her house for two years. Mercy Blain’s house just burnt down and she would have been in it but for a neighbour rescuing her. Her ex husband (and his boyfriend) take her in, but she feels she can’t stay there.
She braves the world and goes out in it with her sausage dog, Wasabi, and spontaneously buys a cult classic camper van off an old man. She and Wasabi, and a box of cremated remains, start driving, and a wrong turn finds them on their way from Adelaide to Darwin.
She’d bought him just before she started her internship, naïvely thinking that the end of med school signalled the beginning of control over her own life. Maybe a cat would have been a better choice, Mercy thought to herself in the early days, coming home in the bleary dawn after night shift to an avalanche of exploded paper up and down the hallway. Or even a goldfish, she had thought, walking an excitable, yapping, twisting Dachshund in the dark streets at two am before work.
But Mercy had gotten Wasabi for the same reason anyone gets a puppy: because they embody happiness. Their fuzzy little faces are gorgeous and irresistible. Their love is unconditional. And no matter how long Mercy was gone, no matter how wrecked she was when she came home, no matter how she had snapped at him or even ignored him, Wasabi was always there. He never blamed her, never criticised her, never expected her to actualise him. Always wagging his tail. Always happy to curl up on her lap and be petted for as long as Mercy needed.
Mercy’s adventures become a healing journey for her anxiety and a lesson on embracing life. The Other Side of Beautiful is a heartwarming story about self-discovery, the kindness of strangers, and climbing out from your darkest place to find insight and sunlight in the great Australian tradition of an outback road trip in a clapped out campervan.