Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

Burst – Mary Otis

Burst - Mary Otis - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy Burst here
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Burst is the new book by Mary Otis, kindly sent to me for review by my new friends at Zibby Books. My first impression, pulling it out of the delivery satchel, was WOW! What a gorgeous cover! And then I saw it was blurbed by Aimee Bender, and we were off to the races.

The bright and beautiful cover belies the dark contents of Burst – it’s not an easy read. The story follows two women – Charlotte and Viva, mother and daughter respectively – over the course of three decades. Charlotte is an itinerant alcoholic, who flits between jobs and men with Viva in tow. It’s obviously a difficult upbringing for Viva, and it would be difficult reading for anyone with sensitivity to reading about substance abuse and child neglect. (Plus, trigger warning for a very sad dog death!)

Otis’s prose is intensely evocative, of both time and place. It’s rich and lush and makes you feel as though you’re in the ’70s (or the ’80s, or the ’90s) without belaboring the point. That’s also what makes Burst such an uncomfortable read, though. Otis paints such a picture with words that the story of inherited trauma and patterns of self-abuse will feel very real.

Ultimately, Burst is a portrait of two complex women, with no easy path to the good life. Otis demonstrates well how instability isn’t something we can grow out of, and we take on more of our mothers than we realise.

Buy Burst on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)


  1. Awesome review. I agree with all you shared here. I really cared for the characters. I would read more by this author. (And I too loved the cover – – and the texture / feel of the paper!)

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