Kim Scott. Small Beer, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-61873-169-2
In this assured, complex novel, Scott (True Country) delves into the fraught history of race relations in Western Australia. Dan Horton welcomes a group of Wirlomin Aboriginal Australians to visit the site on his property where his white family slaughtered the Wirlomins’ ancestors generations ago. The exact nature of the slaughter is in dispute—“There were so many different stories about what happened here,” Dan says early on—and indeed, the novel dramatizes the slippery nature of truth. Dan hopes that with the opening of a “Peace Park” to commemorate the tragedy, he and the Wirlomin “might find their way forward together.” One of the Aborigines to visit is Tilly, a mixed-race orphan whom Dan briefly fostered as a baby and whose father died in jail. She is seeking to connect to a family and a cultural tradition. Also among the group is Gerald, recently released from prison and undaunted by the taboo nature of the site. The reconciliation effort produces misunderstanding, resentment, and the threat of violence, but also offers the native people hope that “the dead will return, transformed, to support us again and from within.” Scott’s novel memorably describes this dramatic resurrection and the enduring power of ancestral traditions. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/02/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Fiction
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