The Lambs’ young son, Fish, is brain damaged after nearly drowning. Miles away, in a life-changing moment, Sam Pickles loses the fingers of his right hand. Hoping to start again, both families move into a big, boarded-up house at No. 1 Cloud Street.
The industrious Lester and Oriel Lamb open a store, irritating feckless Sam and Dolly Pickles. Sam gets a job at the mint, and Dolly spends more time at the pub. Quick Lamb witnesses another tragedy, and Oriel makes a drastic decision.
Years have passed. The Lambs and Pickles still live together, their children now young adults. Dolly forces Rose, her brainy, scornful daughter, to quit school and get a job. Her son, Ted, is now a jockey. Fish’s erratic behavior pushes Quick to the breaking point, and Oriel declares war on a competitor.
Rose learns that her boyfriend, Toby, isn’t what he seems. Lester protects Sam from debt collectors, with unexpected results. With Quick away, Oriel copes with Fish. Quick learns that his connection with Fish is deeper than he knew, and Sam has a run of good luck.
Winning moments never last. Bad news from Adelaide drives Dolly further into the bottle. Events and bizarre visions bring Quick back home, where the house is groaning more than ever. Rose feels detached from her family, especially her mother.
It’s now the mid-1950s. Sam considers selling the house, making everyone realize how much life there means to them. Rose and Quick find each other, which reconciles Rose and her mother at last. With the families in harmony, there is one more journey to complete.
“Winton is a one-man band of genius” Los Angeles Times
“Funny, warm, real, heartbreaking and altogether masterly” The Guardian(UK)
“Stunning” Western Mail(Australia)
“Infused with Winton’s rich language” The Sydney Morning Herald(Australia)
"A triumph" -The Australian