Australian author Harriet McKnight’s debut novel “Rain Birds” relates two intertwining tales of very different types of grief and loss experienced within families.
Set in Victoria’s East Gippsland, the two central characters, Pina and Arianna are each struggling to come to terms with both their past and an uncertain future.
Pina and her husband Alan have lived a somewhat idyllic lifestyle for the past 30 years together in their somewhat isolated bushland community.
The story details the progress of Alan’s early onset Alzheimers and Pina’s attempts to reconcile their happy past with the challenges of dealing with her husbands cognitive deterioration.
The arrival of a flock of glossy black cockatoos seem to somehow pin him in the present, giving Pina hope that it may in fact be possible to delay the inevitable.
It is these birds which also link their tale to that of conservation biologist Arianna, herself attempting to escape the demons of her past.
Having bred the endangered birds in captivity, Arianna and her colleague Tim are faced with the challenge of reintroducing her hatchlings into their natural habitat within Murrungowar National Park.
Isolated in the Victorian bush, Arianna struggles to come to terms with the apparent failure of their project and her conflict with the environmentally controversial project which is funding her program.
As the two story lines intertwine and the women’s paths intersect, they are both forced to let go of their past and move forward into an uncertain future.
Currently dealing with my own father’s dementia and cognitive decline, I found myself continually nodding as McKnight relates Pina’s feelings of anger, frustration and grief. Her writing gives an accurate insight into the conflicting and often guilt ridden emotional roller coaster ride families encounter when dealing with this very different kind of loss.
Her depiction of Arianna eloquently portrays an anxiety ridden young woman who is determined to prove that she is not determined by her somewhat difficult past.
The thought provoking story examines the very different types of grief and loss which are experienced within families
I found Rain Birds to be a thoroughly enjoyable, relatable and thought provoking read.
Rain Birds by Harriet McKnight was published in September 2017 by Black Inc.
Rain Birds by Harriet McKnight