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By the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, 2018.
Since her sister died, Meg has been on her own. She doesn’t mind, not really—not with Atticus, her African grey parrot, to keep her company—but after her house is broken into by a knife-wielding intruder, she decides it might be good to have some company after all.
Andy’s father has lost his job, and his parents’ savings are barely enough to cover his tuition. If he wants to graduate, he’ll have to give up his student flat and find a homeshare. Living with an elderly Australian woman is harder than he’d expected, though, and soon he’s struggling with more than his studies.
Those who enjoyed Cheng’s award-winning short story collection Australia Day will recognise similar themes at play here: the casual racism of white Australia, the human need to belong, and the complexity and compromise inherent in family relationships. Room for a Stranger is an impressive and delicately crafted novel from one of Australia’s most talented new voices.’
‘Melanie Cheng is an astonishingly deft and incisive writer.’
‘I can’t think of anyone who writes human connection as beautifully as Melanie Cheng. Room for a Stranger is superb.’
‘Cheng’s work is polished and affecting.’
‘Cheng’s eye is sharp and sympathetic, her characters flawed and funny and utterly believable.’
‘Melanie Cheng’s stories are a deep dive into the diversity of humanity. They lead you into lives, into hearts, into unexplored places, and bring you back transformed.’
‘A beautifully written novel about how the stories we tell ourselves can get us stuck and how opening our lives to others might jolt us free again. Melanie Cheng offers both razor-sharp insight into the flaws and foibles of ordinary people and a deep warmth and tenderness for them. Room for a Stranger is that rare thing: a novel which stings and soothes all at once.’
‘My god, this was a joy to read. Every year there’s an Australian novel everyone endlessly passes around and recommends because they bloody love it so much, and this is going to be 2019’s. Room for a Stranger explores the high stakes of quiet moments, reveals the beauty of unlikely connections and shows how the antidote to shame is always compassion. After reading this impossible-to-put-down novel, Melanie Cheng is quickly becoming my favourite Australian writer.’
‘Melanie Cheng’s Room for a Stranger is a touching exploration of an unexpected friendship and how two vulnerable people find the strength to carry on. Cheng examines the complexities of human nature with gentle humour and thoughtful attention to the minutiae of her characters’ lives. I could not put this moving, insightful novel down.’
‘A wholly engrossing portrait of two very different people whose collision reminds us that the need for companionship is ultimately what unites us all. With startling humanity and precision, Cheng shows us how complex, contradictory and difficult to define we are. Her characters will linger in your mind like a great open-ended question.’
‘This is a book with great heart and its gentle unfurling of Meg and Andy’s friendship, as well as the nuances of their characters, takes place with empathy and skill. Cheng’s real gift as a writer is in this kind of portraiture, in no small part because of her commitment to writing about people who aren’t often centred in our stories. Room for a Stranger is a tender and moving book and one that is ultimately life-affirming and full of hope and kindness.’