Tuesday 12 November 2019

Ghost Bird

Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller, (UQP), 2019, pb, RRP $19.95 ISBN 978072260230 (pbk)
ISBN 978072261633 (pdf)
ISBN 9780702261640 (epub)
ISBN 9780702261657 (kindle) 

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

Stacey and Laney are mirror twins – the mirror images of each other physically. In every other way they are different. Laney takes risks. Stacey works hard at school and covers for her twin when Laney skips school and sneaks out at night to meet her boyfriend. Then Laney disappears.

It’s 1999. The difficulties of an indigenous family in a small country town in Queensland are presented honestly and undramatically. Laney was last seen near the property of the Potter family who’ve been known to shoot at anyone with ‘skin darker than tan.’ On the western side of the Potter property sits a mountain that Stacey, and all the younger children, have been warned to stay away from. When Stacey asks why, her mother goes quiet. Here’s her partial explanation: ‘Remember daughter, this world is a lot bigger than anyone knows. There are things that science may never explain… Maybe I was so focused on (you girls receiving) whitefulla education I forgot to educate you proper way.’  

When the white police show little interest in searching for Laney, her uncles, aunties and cousins rally around. At first Stacey believes the Potters know what has happened. But gradually, after Stacey has a series of strange dreams, she realises it’s not the Potters she needs to fear but whatever it is that lives in the mountain.

Something was taken from the mountain and ‘the creatures’ there want it back. After much tense, dramatic action, Stacey returns the stolen object and releases her twin. By doing this, she goes some way to healing a generations-long grudge between her family and the nearby Millers.

This powerful story is Lisa Fuller’s debut novel. It deserves a wide YA (and adult) readership. In 2017 Fuller won the David Unaipon award for an unpublished indigenous writer, and has previously published poetry and short fiction. Stacey is a great creation, gutsy, tough and loyal. Her burgeoning love affair with Sam Miller (echoes of Romeo and Juliet) is sensitively handled.
Fuller’s characters accept the society they live in with muted resentment, some humour and a reliance on close family connections, which reminded me of the characters in the American novel The Hate U Give.
The supernatural element is cleverly presented. Whatever ‘the creatures’ are, they are not named or fully described which makes them all the more frightening.

UQP have done a great job offering the story in so many different formats. It’s
a page turner, clearly and atmospherically written. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.

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