By Alison EvansYoung AdultEcho Publishing

Ida

How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want? 

Ida struggles more than other people to work this out. When she makes a mistake, she can go back in time and correct it, allowing her to follow a different path.

One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.

How can she know, anyway, whether one option is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?

Ida is an intelligent, diverse and entertaining novel that explores love, loss and longing, and speaks to the condition of an array of overwhelming, and often illusory, choices.

Portrait of Alison Evans

Alison Evans

Alison Evans writes about people who don’t know what they want, relationships and Melbourne. They are co-editor of Concrete Queers, a maker of zines and a lover of bad movies. Their work has been published in various Australian and international magazines, lit journals and zines. You can find them on Twitter @_budgie or their website, alisonwritesthings.com.

Judges’ report

Ida is a visionary book that gently takes the reader by the hand into alternative universes where diverse timelines, narratives and identities can be the norm.

The protagonist, Ida, holds the ability to travel back in time to alter decisions and occurrences in her life. It is through her experiences with time travel that she discovers that her interfering with the past has a lasting impact on the present as timelines begin to blur.

As the story continues Ida is faced with the reality of overusing her powers when she begins to lose the people that are closest to her.

Outside of being an interesting storyline Ida is relevant and important for its ability to be a reflection of diversity on the page as we experience it in the world. The book features characters that are genderqueer and nonconforming in a way that comes across as a breath of fresh air. Ida identifies as a bisexual and her partner Daisy identifies as genderqueer through the use of they/them pronouns. The representation of this relationship in an intimate and loving way brought a beautifully delicate sincerity to the story.

The presentation of both Ida and Daisy as people of colour also demonstrated an important element of the intersections between gender and race identities.

Overall Ida is a book about transcendence. The combination of contemporary themes and the familiarity of the time travel narrative positioned this book as an engaging read. In Ida Alison Evans demonstrated their mastery in creating characters that are warm and compassionate. That is what makes Ida memorable and luminous.

Extract

My shift is finally over and I want to scream. The thing about hospitality is that you always have to be switched on, always nice, welcoming, smiling. Even when someone’s yelling at you because their three-quarter soy latte is too cold. I’d tell them that soy milk is supposed to be slightly cooler than cow, but then that would look like I actually cared.

I throw my bag onto the car seat beside me and run my hands around the steering wheel, feeling the bumpy grooves on the underside. The sky’s full of dark, plump clouds and it’s going to rain soon.

Juddering on, I pull my car out of the car park. The road out of the tourist park I work in is narrow, winding and the tourists can’t drive on these almost-country roads. Today, though, there’s no one in front of me, so I zoom around the bends because my body knows the way they work.

The pay’s good considering I don’t do a lot. It’s an all right job for the moment, half a year out of high school, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I don’t really know what I want to do with my life, anyway, as if there would only be one thing.

On the main road now, and little smacks of rain appear. The slow beat begins as I turn on the windscreen wipers.

The little glowing clock on my dashboard says 5.06, but my watch says 8.38. People always ask why I don’t set it right or get a new one. I never tell them.

At the end of the road I turn right. The drive home isn’t too long and Daisy is coming over tonight after being in Queensland for six weeks. I can’t wait. It’s been so long. Tree ferns and gum trees tower over the road as I send the car forwards, winding down the curves, almost too fast but not quite.

Even through the cover of the trees, the rain beats down hard. Combine that with the clouds and the light starts to suffocate; I flick on my headlights.

When I get home I should have plenty of time to shower, shovel down some food and maybe read a bit before I have to pick Daisy up from the train. The plane should have just touched down in Melbourne if my car clock is right, and I know it is.

All around, the rain brings a constant sound and I can smell can smell the freshness and the dirt through the vents. I lean into the curves of the road; I could do this with my eyes closed.

As I slow for a familiar bend, all of a sudden right in my face there’s a huge Landcruiser crossed over into my lane, speeding towards me like I’m a magnet or something. Cold needles spike through my blood and I’m gonna be crushed by this arsehole who can’t drive. I can’t see the driver’s face, the bullbar is too close, but I can see the number plate. That jumble of letters and numbers is going to be the last thing I see, something that doesn’t mean anything to me.

I close my eyes and try not to imagine what the impact will be like … bones crunching, blood, pain, pain, pain.

 

Everything is white dark. I know this place, its coldwarm comfort. It’s like I’m floating but there’s no way to tell because I can’t open my eyes, I can’t move.

Peaceful calm.

The space is everywhere and although I am not bound, I know if I try to move my arms the space won’t let me. Nothing but the lightdark embrace.

Then there is a warmth that spreads through my whole body, pooling through my veins, and I know I’m going the right way.

 

Once again, I find myself in the work car park. Time travel is super handy for avoiding near-death experiences. I’ve already put my bag on the seat beside me and the engine is still off. I mean, I would really appreciate one fucking week without almost dying. A bit of adrenaline now and then is healthy enough, but this melodrama is tiring.

It barely takes any time for my hands to stop shaking. Used to be a lot worse, especially car crashes, but turns out you can get used to almost anything. The time on my watch is 8:46.

I sink into the seat as I close my eyes, let my breathing slow, let my heart return to its usual rhythm. Ready, the car engine groans as I turn the key. I put the windscreen-wipers on and before I can leave the car park, the rain begins.

At the end of the road, I turn left instead of right. It’ll take longer, but at least this way I won’t be squished into nothing. No crash to worry about; it didn’t happen.

This time, with the heater turned on and the rain sounding everywhere, it’s safe. Soon enough, the Landcruiser comes up behind me. So they managed to right their car before crashing. Prick.

As the car gets closer I can’t help but grip the steering wheel tighter, fingers turning white. The car takes up my whole back window, headlights directly in my rear-view mirror. Swearing under my breath, I eventually pull over when there’s room and let the car pass. They honk their horn as they zoom away and I roll my eyes.

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