Winner of the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize

In 1982, a car overturns on a remote West Australian road. Nobody is hurt, but the impact is felt for decades.

Nicole and Samantha Cooper both remember the summer day when their mother, Tina, lost control of their car – but not in quite the same way. It is only after Tina’s death, almost four decades later, that the sisters are forced to reckon with the repercussions of the crash. Nicole, after years of sabotaging her own happiness, seems finally content but still can’t get through to her sister. And Samantha is hiding something that might just tear apart the life she’s worked so hard to build for herself.

The Spill explores the cycles of love, loss and regret that can follow a family through the years – moments of joy, things left unsaid, and things misremembered. Above all, it is a deeply moving portrait of two sisters falling apart and finding a way to fit back together.



Praise for The Spill

“Imbi Neeme has crafted a clear-eyed, compassionate novel with crackling dialogue and endearing characters struggling to put together the fragments of a misremembered past.”

★★★★ Imbi Neeme’s accomplished and coherent sister-gate, exposes the bond and the cause of friction between the siblings as these flawed, troubled and likeable women track their ‘missing pieces.’ The book’s engaging cast sing convincingly on the page.”

“The Spill is a feat of clever handiwork, like a series of magical sleights of hand… Satisfying and well-wrought.”

“Each of Neeme’s characters are authentic in their foibles, and the tribulations of this imperfect family will draw you in. This is a debut that aims to articulate the tangled mess that is family, and it succeeds. An engaging story from an author who is only just getting started.”

“A warm, deftly observed multi-narrative about the inherent messiness of life and relationships.”

“This is an easy and engaging read as well as a reminder that some things aren’t always what they seem. VERDICT: WORTH THE DRIVE.”

“Neeme is a skilled navigator of turbulence. She builds the plot one memory upon another, slowly and gradually filling in the holes. It is a joy to read – melancholic, certainly, but filled with grace. The Spill will be enjoyed by those who are drawn to family drama; readers of Anne Tyler or Thea Astley will feel in very safe hands. I’m already looking forward to Imbi Neeme’s next offering.”

“The Spill is the gorgeous debut novel from Imbi Neeme which tackles life’s painful moments with poise and love. I absolutely adored this book to the very last page, where hope nestled itself into the pages despite heartbreak and regret.”

” By deftly dissecting the sisters’ recollections, Neeme examines the fickleness of memory and illustrates how the intense fear of past mistakes can actually lead you down the path to repeating them.”

“★★★★½   Imbi Neeme also tells a story of regret over grief, love, motherhood and infidelity are forced to the surface things unsaid, assumptions and lies. [The] issues are addressed in a way that is raw, beautiful… It is beautifully written and had me fully hooked by the end. It is also written in a way that felt friendly and comfortable, like you knew the family. The slower pace of the book also meant it felt more personal. Neeme allows us to see the consequences of not being truthful and not appreciating the family we might have. However, it didn’t feel like it was a lesson. The Spill is truly a beautiful and touching story of love, family and regret. Would definitely be a good book club book.”

“Skilfully constructed, deeply affecting and all the more enjoyable for its measure of sadness and regret, THE SPILL marks a dazzling debut for author, Imbi Neeme… Told with the sympathy and skill of a natural storyteller, THE SPILL seeps below the surface of fractured families to fathom deep seated resentments but the book has the heart to search for healing and the making of amends… Be prepared to have a spill.”

“The Spill by Imbi Neeme is just remarkable. It’s the type of book you had no idea you needed to read, until you’ve read it and now you can’t imagine not having read it.”

“The Spill delves more deeply into the characters than any other novel I can recall…It would be easy for a novel with this plot device – and themes – to become dense if not infuriating, but the writing is so light and vivid that The Spill is easy and enjoyable to read.”

“Neeme’s characterisation, setting, and mastery of revelations shines… a brilliant debut.”

“This highly accessible story is compelling and easy to read but it also touches on deeper themes of love, family, the choices we make as we go through life, and how those choices affect us over time. The references to the eighties and nineties are immediately recognisable and familiar, but not heavy-handed. The major events of these girls’ / women’s lives are presented in taut vignettes that highlight a few random details that give us the overall picture. As they consider their regrets, the two sisters comprehend their early lives and the paths they each have chosen… A nuanced and complex story of family, The Spill will appeal to a wide variety of readers, and leave you thinking about the characters long after the last page.”

“I feel that Imbi Neeme has really dug down deep into the tragedy of alcoholism and the far reaching inter-generational effects this disease has on a family. It’s a complex issue, easily judged by outsiders who are fortunate enough to have never had to deal with it. But the weight and burden of it is immense, and I honestly can’t articulate how much I appreciate this novel and the manner in which it wears its topic.”

“The Spill is an incredibly satisfying, engrossing read. A warm, moving portrait of family and sisterhood. There are moments of humour and lighthearted fun, but there are also moments of tenderness and heartbreak, events that force you to really take stock and reflect as a reader.”

“The Spill is a remarkable and moving composition that explores the complex relationship between two sisters… There is something about Neeme’s prose that sets it apart from the crowd, it is poised and reflective.”

“The story, which is largely set in Perth, is told in such an original and ambitious way — vignettes from the past interweaved with the present day, told in alternate chapters from each sister’s perspective — that it’s hard to believe this is the work of a debut novelist. The writing is assured and the characters flesh-and-blood real.”

“Intriguing, subtle and brimful of subterranean sadness, The Spill sucked me in from the first page. A thoughtful, sensitive look at the lies we tell ourselves and the stories we tell each other, and the ways we help piece together the people closest to us.”


“Brilliantly comic and tender, this is a sharp and intimate portrayal of that most mystifying of things: family. Neeme gives us a real world; of chaotic fragments drawn with charm and compassion. These are people, like us, making lives of their messes.”

“This compelling, beautifully crafted story introduces us to a pair of sisters, and then peels back the layers of their history to reveal the complexities and contradictions at the heart of love. Reading The Spill feels like being welcomed into a new family and gradually making sense of their complicated dynamics. The sisters and their troubled mother are flawed, frustrating, and at times infuriating, yet relatable and deeply endearing. Imbi Neeme is a hugely talented writer with an eye for the nuances that inform relationships. The family and their history will linger on in your mind long after you’ve finished the book.”

“Imbi Neeme’s prose thrums, and her characters are so deep and richly imagined that it’s astounding to think The Spill is her first novel. This is the story of sisters coming to terms with their mother’s alcoholism and their father’s shortcomings as a husband and a parent, but it’s also a study of generational cause and effect and the ways we hurt the ones we most want to protect. I was hooked at first by the writing, but I soon found myself so invested in the characters that I didn’t come up for air until I’d finished.”