Measuring the Mountain
by Adrian Stadtmiller
Publicious Book Publishing

"'Aaron and Josh have fought with each other since they were toddlers. I’ve got no reason to believe they’ll be any different in the future.'"

The MacAuley Family is as close to royalty as it gets in the township of Coppabella in rural Australia. Eventually Charles, the patriarch of the family, is no longer physically able to keep up their large estate. His son, Gareth, has proven a poor manager of the estate, and his daughter, Elizabeth, is no longer interested in the job. Now that Elizabeth's twin sons, Aaron and Josh, are eighteen and have graduated from secondary school, she and her father feel it is time to put one of them in charge of the ranch. Elizabeth chooses Aaron. Blind to his defects or perhaps refusing to see them, she overlooks his arrogance and egotism when she does so. Aaron immediately begins his stewardship of the family's estate by lording it over his brother and treating him extremely badly as a worker on the ranch.

Resentment builds between the brothers not only because of Aaron's treatment of Josh but also because of Aaron's overall jealousy and vindictiveness. Josh finds himself having to help the overindulgent Aaron home on many occasions. He is also acutely aware of how Aaron treats his girlfriend, Tash, on the nights the three go out on the town. Eventually, Josh finds himself in a compromising position with Tash, who is attracted to him. The feeling is mutual, and when Tash finds she is pregnant, she isn't sure which of the brothers is the father of the twins she is expecting. Josh, however, offers to marry Tash and give her twins a home and his name. This leads to even more resentment and problems between Josh and Aaron. When Charles dies, his will leaves an ultimatum for the twins in running the estate, but it isn't an ideal situation. Will the brothers ever be able to work out their differences before it is too late and they have lost everything?

Stadtmiller has crafted an interesting story of life in a rural area of Australia. Told in the first person throughout but through the point of view of different characters, the narrative gives varying and unique perspectives on the plot and the actions of the various characters. One of the most interesting characters is Jack Scraggins, who has worked on the ranch since he was twenty. He has a unique view of each family member. The storyline is, at times, heartbreaking with brother against brother in a seemingly endless rivalry, which has the potential to be the downfall of a dynasty. However, in this story of love, loss, and forgiveness, the reader will find many surprising plot twists and unexpected turns which keep the tale interesting.

The author gives voice to several characters throughout the novel to move the intriguing plot along. One of the most interesting choices in this technique is to give voice to the work dogs on the estate. It seems these animals see characters in a simple but straightforward way, which cuts to the heart of the matter. For example, Aaron's dog, Rusty, after describing a scene in which Aaron has been vindictive and tried to sabotage his brother, states, "I think Aaron's done a bad thing." The simplicity of the observance is quite chilling coming from this animal who, in the same thought, wonders why his master never lets him sit up front. The treatment of their animals is another subtle difference between the two brothers brought out in the contentedness of the animals themselves. Readers who enjoy stories of family drama and dysfunction will love reading this one. The alternating point of view affords a well-rounded cast of characters and analysis of the twin brothers who head it up.

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