Thursday 2 April 2020

Ghost Bird

Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller (University of Queensland Press, 2019). PB RRP $19.95 ISBN 9780702260230

Reviewed by Julie Anne Thorndyke

What happens when your twin sister goes missing? Inevitably, a great deal of waiting and worrying. This is the situation for Stacey, whose mirror-image twin Laney disappears one night. Hardworking, studious and rule-abiding Stacey is placed in conflict with her mother, because Stacey had prior knowledge that risk-taking Laney was sneaking out of the house at night to meet her boyfriend Ty.

The conflict between mother and daughter contrasts with their need to comfort and help each other as both characters struggle to understand what has happened to Laney.

The realistic portrayal of worry and helplessness is bolstered by the scenes that depict the extended family and friends arriving at the family house to cook, eat, support and plan a search. The interconnectedness of the mob together with the long-term grudge held against another family is contrasted with the indifference of the white police and the lack of official help in looking for the missing girl.

Against the realism, the nightmares Stacey has about Laney, visitations by the ‘ghost bird’, wisdom from the crazy elderly woman from the enemy Miller clan, memories of her own Nan’s often repeated warnings and advice lead Stacey to believe that her sister is alive and show her the way to discover her location.

Intertwined with the story of the missing girl is the problem of precious stones being removed from the land. Bad things happen to those who possess the stolen rocks.

The story moves at a steady pace with helpers such as cousin Rhi, May and Dan Miller arriving to help Stacey overcome the obstacles in her quest to find her twin. Supernatural elements offer a touch of horror that will appeal to the YA audience.

The villains of the piece are the white landowners. Otherworldly beings pushed away by light and fire are part of the land and the handed down wisdom of indigenous elders shows how to deal with their approach. There are places best avoided, particularly after dark.

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