Author(s): Bonnie Etherington
Fresh, different and exquisitely written, this is an exciting debut novel. One day we were in a dream world, where Julia was dead and the space where she once was became large and silent, and then we were in another country altogether - where stories and voices made their way into our house any way they could. They heaved under the floorboards, whispered in the windows. Creaked in the attic like a python grown too big on rats. And I collected them all to fill that silence Julia left. After the accidental death of Ruth's five-year-old sister, their father decides that atonement and healing are in order, and that taking on aid work in a mountain village in Irian Jaya is the way to find it. It is the late 1990s, a time of civil unrest and suppression in the Indonesian province now known as West Papua. The family drops into what seems the middle of nowhere, where they experience a vibrant landscape, an ever-changing and disorientating world, and - for Ruth - new voices. While her parents find it a struggle to save themselves, let alone anyone else, Ruth seeks redemption in bearing witness to and passing on the stories of those who have been silenced - even as she is haunted by questions about what it means to witness and who gets to survive.
Longlisted for Ockhams Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize 2018
Bonnie Etherington was born in Nelson, New Zealand, but spent most of her childhood in West Papua and her experiences there inspired her first novel. Currently, she lives with her husband and cat in Chicago, where she is working towards a PhD at Northwestern University, focusing on tropical ecologies in South East Asian and Oceania literatures. She was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2016, and has had poetry, short fiction, and travel writing published in literary magazines and anthologies in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Malaysia. She was shortlisted for the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award in 2013, and named AA Directions' New Travel Writer of the Year in 2011.