17 July, 2014

Book Review: Spinifex Baby

From Finch Publishing: I thought I knew how hard it would be. What I didn’t know was that it would test me to the inner core. This desert with its rolling dune fields is an unforgiving land that relentlessly destroys even its own ancient beauty. It is a place where, compared to the age of the landscape, a single life means less than a grain of sand. I could not have known that the biggest challenge I would face would not be from the piercing sun, not from the unforgiving dust, not even from the aching loneliness of isolation, but from the treachery of my own self.
When Karen and her partner Al set forth from the cold mountains of Tasmania to the 45-plus degree heat of central Australia to transform a cattle station into a conservation reserve, they were ready to embrace the beauty of the land and throw themselves into the task of protecting native plants and animals. They thought they had all the skills necessary to beat the heat, the dust and their isolation from society. However, when Karen became unexpectedly pregnant, their lives were turned upside down. Suddenly their biggest danger was not their exposure to the harsh elements but to the deepest fears that resided within themselves…

Thoughts: I'm so excited to read this book, if for no other reason than it signifies the return of book group in my little corner of the world!! Yay!! Spinifex Baby was recommended by one of book group members who happens to be Karen Harrland's sister-in-law.
As an Australian, you can hardly imagine two landscapes more different than the Tasmanian mountains and the Queensland outback. One cool, green, wet with lush bushland. The other hot, red, dry (unless it's wet season and then it's really wet) and sparse vegetation. Add to this the remoteness of the desert and Karen and Al are way more adventurous than I would ever be!
Karen truly brings the beauty of the outback to the fore. Her writing has made me want to visit the landscape. She does however, also bring the harshness out. A place where when you hang washing, the first piece is dry before you put the last piece on the line. A place where a walk across the yard can leave you exhausted and sunburnt. A place where the nearest medical help is four hours by plane.
Given how ill she was during her pregnancy, I'm in awe of the fact she stayed out there. I wasn't even remotely as ill as Karen and I found it hard to go to the shops, let alone help keep a remote station running. As for returning after she'd had the baby, I don't think wild horses could have dragged me back!
Spinifex Baby is a wonderful book. It showcases the Australian outback without romanticising it. You are left with no doubt that it's not easy out there, but if you are willing to put the effort in, the rewards are incredible. It's a great read and I'm really looking forward to the discussion I know it will spark on Saturday.