Scilla’s parents have been divorced for some time and this book begins when she is leaving home and her mother to spend a year with her father and Rosie, her ailing Nanna. During the train ride, 15-year-old Scilla becomes aware of the racism towards Aboriginal people that exists within the small town.
Hogan’s Creek, where she is heading, is preparing for a celebration of its foundation. A re-enactment is proposed. During a discussion of what is to take place, her grandmother asks if there is to be a re-enactment of what happened at Bloody Creek. Nanna explains that her great-grandfather made a claim to land with the intention of creating a station. There was a clash with the Traditional Owners, with the result that 10 Aboriginal people died that day. Nanna said, ‘They didn’t have much chance against guns and horses’. At school, the racial tension is even more evident, but gradually Scilla settles in although she becomes increasingly more distressed as her grandmother undergoes chemotherapy.
Rosie is invited to be honoured, and to give a speech at the Foundation celebrations (later renamed Affirmation). She refuses, but after being encouraged by Scilla and her father’s girlfriend, she capitulates, but not before saying, ‘If I accept their invitation, it will cause controversy. I’m not interested. What my ancestors did is done. But why recall the good and not the bad? Why try to pretend? Better to leave it, let the healing happen.’
The themes within this book – death and dying, divorce and its aftermath, racism and reconciliation are dealt with in a thoughtful manner. While perhaps confronting, the messages are clear. There is a connecting novel by this author entitled, ‘The Sun is Rising’ (published in 1996). It centres on Michel Khamis, a young Australian/Lebanese boy whose music promoter mother gives him the job of minding the office during the holidays. Geraldine Ahearn, a beautiful Aboriginal girl, comes into Michael’s life.