Sunday 26 June 2016

Hell and High Water

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman (Walker Books)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781406366914

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The brilliant Buffalo Soldier won Tanya Landman the Carnegie Medal. Here is an equally brilliant and exciting adventure in three parts, about courage, resilience and race, and secrets and truths.

Fifteen year old Caleb is the dark-skinned son of a fair-skinned man. Pa protects Caleb from the racist attacks he frequently faces. All that Caleb knows about his mother is that she died at childbirth. In fact Pa has shared very little about his own life. They are a loving pair that wants nothing more than what they have.

The two make their living by travelling through the country with a wagonload of hand-made Punch and Judy puppets, entertaining crowds.

Pa is set up and arrested for theft. He is taken to jail and condemned to seven years in America. Caleb must reach his aunt Anne, a person he has never heard mentioned before.

In Tawpuddle, Anne lives a frugal life as a dressmaker with her young daughter and stepdaughter Letty, while her husband is at sea. Another mouth to feed is the last thing they need.

‘It’s astonishing what a person can get used to if their circumstances change’, Anne tells Caleb. His sewing skills come in handy when he can’t find work in the poverty-stricken town due to his colour.

When Caleb finds Pa’s body washed up on the beach, slowly secrets and truths are unwrapped.  Caleb and Letty are determined to discover the real story behind the treachery and lies they have been forced to accept as truth. But he is surrounded by corruption and deceit and can find no justice. Who can be trusted when no one is who they appear to be?

Yet his strong sense of right and wrong learnt from his Pa never wavers. His belief in truth as its own reward is what keeps him from giving up.

Tanya Landman has the ability to create characters that readers immediately fall in love with. Their situations are carefully crafted individual storylines that weave into a larger story that continues to expand. Once you’ve read her work, you will never forget it.

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