The Paperbark Shoe - Goldie Goldbloom Goldie Goldbloom crafts some striking and original prose, which earned her the 2008 AWP Prize for this novel. She can also be wickedly funny at the most unexpected moments in the narrative. Those moments when her humor sneaks up on you are welcome refreshment in this mostly sorrowful story. Simply put, this is a story of misfits, misfortunes, and misunderstandings. Gin and Agrippas Toad are misfits by birth, she an albino and he, well, a Toad. They're married to each other because they believe no one else will have them. After ten years of marriage, Gin focuses mostly on her two small children, Mudsey(Maud) and Alf. Toad occupies himself with his collection of antique corsets(yes!) and running the ranch. Enter Antonio and John, who are misfits by misfortune---Italians POWs brought to Australia during WWII to serve as laborers. They are sent to work on Toad's remote ranch in Western Australia. Long-term isolation, personality clashes, and emotional miscalculations lead to what Gin terms "an unholy entanglement" among the four adults. There's a lot of infidelity of a sexual nature, but much more destructive are the emotional and intellectual infidelities. Goldbloom's writing shines most brightly in her descriptions of the harsh Wyalkatchem landscape, its weather, and the fragmentary beauty that can be found there in the various seasons. She has a lovely feel for atmosphere, sharing sounds, smells, tastes, and colors that bring the reader into her world. This is a novel most suitable for readers who enjoy beautiful prose for its own sake and don't mind a looser plot construction, with the possibility that a lot of questions will be left unanswered. Gin Toad as narrator suffers from some attention deficit, myopia, and perhaps even a little madness. As a result, it's somewhat difficult to fully connect with the characters. I was left wanting more background to understand their motivations for the choices they made, or failed to make. On balance, this is a fine first effort which I give 3.5 stars.