It's time to catch my breath a bit. I just finished this book, and I feel like I'm lost at sea. I read it because I enjoyed The Book Thief so much, but I came to fall in love with this one even more than the lovely The Book Thief. At first I wasn't sure about the novel. For the first 70 pages or so, I was having difficulty following because the book slips between different times, places and people so much that it's hard to get a handle on it. But the fabulous 5 Dunbar boys is the glue that holds the book together. This is a love story between Michael Dunbar and his beautiful refugee wife Penelope. It's a story about their lives before they met, and a story about after they met and the wonderful family they raised. It's a story about a ramshackle, tumultuous family of 5 strapping boys. The family lives in the hot grassland of the Australian countryside. The family lives hard, loves hard and fights hard, and little Penelope is the glue that holds them all together. When she gets sick and "sets about the process of dying", the family members each take it in their own way. The father retreats into himself and disappears. Matthew the oldest, steps up and becomes the man of the house. Rory argues, swears, drinks and fights, proving he's the toughest guy out there. Henry becomes a teenage entrepreneur. Tommy, the youngest, relies on his menagerie of animals to help him cope. But Clay, the fourth boy, the one with "fire in his eyes", runs away from himself and others, and trains and races, and fights and reflects, and sits up on the roof of their house contemplating the world around him. Clay is the one with the weight of the world on his slim shoulders. Clay is the one who builds a bridge almost single-handedly in order to help keep his demons at bay, and Clay is the one who meets a girl called Carrey and falls in love. Like in The Book Thief, Death plays a part in this novel as well, and it's Clay who tries to tame him and keep him away from the rest of his family. I could go on and on about this book, but instead I ask you to read it. Read it with an open mind and open heart and you will not be disappointed. This is the best book that I've read in a long long time. And I may have to go read some Homer again too. There's a lot of Odysseus and the Iliad in this book. There is even Achilles the mule. Thank you Markus for writing this perfect novel.