"There are three questions that I need to find the answers to:
Where am I?
What am I doing here?
And... Who am I?"
Wow! Zillah Bethell's new story, after the amazing 'The Shark Caller', is incredible. Out next month, 'The Song Walker' is a brilliantly blazing, dream-time rhapsody of a children's book. Urgent, mysterious and singing with raw emotion, it is a book that seizes you immediately and never lets go. A story about survival, identity, the nature of existence and, at its heart, how friendship can save us, 'The Song Walker' is already a top book for 2023.
When a young girl wakes up in the middle of the desert, she has no idea who she is. She's wearing one shoe, a silky black dress, and she's carrying a strange, heavy case. She meets Tarni, who is on a mysterious quest of her own. Together, the two girls trek across the vast and ever-changing Australian Outback in search of answers. Except both are also hiding secrets...
I loved being swept off into a story of survival in the Australian outback. I have an affinity for Australia: I backpacked there when I was younger and my wife's side of the family has Australian origins. Zilliah Bethell really captures the intensity of the outback; its dangers, strangeness and beauty - it is almost a character in itself. And the meeting of cultures, of Western decadence and First Country spiritualism, offers a powerful thematic juxtaposition, explored compassionately through the wonderful characters of the girl with no memory and Tarni who helps her. The first person narration is absolutely engrossing too, especially as the lost girl's memories begin to return and propel the narrative in unexpected directions.
As with 'The Shark Caller', there is so much wisdom here, demanding a second read. 'The Song Walker' is mystical and brutally real, melodic and wild. I don't want to spoil the twists and turns, but if you enjoyed 'The Shark Caller' then you're in for a treat with this too - prepare for shocks and surprises. Since finishing, I can't stop thinking about it. The story is composed like a song itself; its notes and flourishes echo long after you close the book. Brilliant!
Thank you Usborne for a copy of the book to review.