RED DIRT TALKING - Jacqueline Wright
Somewhere in the back of my head, as I've read more and more books set in Australia, there's always been a little question. Which RED DIRT TALKING has answered. Why can't we have more books written from the Aboriginal perspective? And what better way to look at that perspective from the point of view of an incomer to a remote outback community.
Set within community RED DIRT TALKING is having a red hot go at a heap of issues, and because of that, if you're looking for something that's a formulaic, straight-forward mystery, then that's not what's going on here. Although it could be argued that why it's taken so long for something this good, this direct, this clever to emerge... is a whole other sort of mystery.
Up front, I loved this book, so keep that in the back of your mind as you're wading through this review. There was something profoundly real about the way that Annie arrived in town with her agenda, her timeframes, her pressures and her ways. And in the way that her priorities were politely, gently, consistently... ignored. There's something about the way that outback communities work, their timeframes that oh so rang true and clear as a bell. Nothing overt, nothing cruel or vicious, but the message is clear - come to our land, our world then it's our rules, our timeframes, our priorities, and most importantly, our ways of respect and operating which prevail. A subtle reminder, but a reminder nonetheless.
Deliver those reminders and that pitch perfect observation of community and outsiders with some very dry, witty asides, but set it in the gloriously slow languid pace and you've got a perfect view of community life - warts and all. Add to that some excellent characters - from the crashing, frequently annoying Annie to the laconic Mick and the hilarious Maggot the garbo and the community and its inhabitants were so clearly drawn you could see them. There were also laugh out loud moments what with the games played with new arrivals (Toyota anyone), and the been there, done that nature of many encounters. There were also moments of great sadness and the stark reality of life, camp dwelling not being a particularly easy way of life.
The message from the mystery element of a missing little girl is there, buried in the overall story of the book and it's worth looking for. A couple of hundred years past, and still new in town, it strikes me there's a bit of Annie in a lot of us. Perhaps it's time to stop and listen, maybe watch and learn a few things from the old hands.
It’s build-up time in the north-western town of Ransom, just before the big wet, when people go off the rails.
In the midst of a bitter custody battle, an eight year old girl goes missing.
Annie, an anthropology graduate fresh from the city, is determined to uncover the mystery of the child’s disappearance.
As Annie searches for the truth beneath the township’s wild speculations, she finds herself increasingly drawn towards Mick Hooper, a muscly, seemingly laid-back bloke with secrets of his own.