Set against a post-pandemic Melbourne struggling with the effects of climate change, the story follows three characters as their lives collide. A novel about destiny, and how the choices we make may be able to change it, if not always in the way we might expect. It explores the importance of compassion and human connection in an increasingly fragmented world.
Random Acts of Unkindness is set in a Melbourne of the near future, where the effects of climate change mean that the weather can be volatile and extreme. Bushfires burn on the outskirts of the city, low-lying Pacific Islands are underwater, and tsunamis devastate India’s south-west coast. Australia is in a protracted cold war with China, and Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens has become an encampment for refugees and the homeless.
Against this post-pandemic background, fifty-two year old photographer Roz Hale lives in an inner-Melbourne Housing Commission flat with her black Kelpie, Sam. Her life is a daily struggle to put food on the table, and keep the electricity on so that she can work on her colourful abstract photographs and listen to her beloved jazz music. Roz was born with an excess of empathy, and her ability to tune into other people’s distress allows her to see a short way into the future.
Emily is a thirty year old behavioural psychologist at the University of Melbourne, who is carrying out experiments on white lab rats to research the effects of overcrowding. She also volunteers at Careline, a telephone counselling service that Roz likes to use. Emily meets a young Indian man, Rajiv, who gives her his card showing a pink lotus flower unfolding on a blue background, and they start a relationship. At around the same time, she begins to receive threatening calls and text messages from an unknown stalker.
Rajiv’s beautiful, horoscope-loving sister, Amala, is in Melbourne to study social work, but misses her home town of Pondicherry, on the Bay of Bengal. To cover her tuition fees and living expenses, as well as satisfy her love of expensive clothes, she secretly works as an escort. She also has a blog called ‘Random Acts of Unkindness’, where she invites people to post their stories of the spiteful and unpleasant things that others have done to them, and then responds with her special brand of light-hearted advice.
The three characters’ stories collide when Roz has a vision of a female suicide bomber blowing up a Melbourne train, and believes that Emily and Amala are in danger of being caught up in the disaster. Roz will need to overcome her lack of faith in herself if she is to help the women. But first she has to solve the puzzle of what may be about to happen, and even then, there may not be enough time to save both women.