Gifts of the Peramangk
The Delfey family is struggling. Rex, the nominal head of the family, takes part-time work when he can find it and drinks the rest of the time, terrorizing his family. His wife, Belle, works successive twelve-hour shifts that leave her exhausted with little time to do more than sleep. His mother, Virginia, is slowly slipping, becoming inattentive and absent-minded. His oldest son, Jeremy, is angry all the time and has gotten involved with a local gang. His niece, Ruby, doesn’t understand why her aunt and uncle dislike her and worries about what will happen when her grandmother and guardian Virginia can’t take care of her any longer.
It all comes down to history. A happy child in an aboriginal family, Virginia, was taken from her mother on the slimmest of pretexts by the Aborigines Welfare Board and delivered to “the Pastoralist” on a remote farm, essentially becoming a slave. Homesick and afraid, Virginia finds her only solace in violin lessons given to her by the Pastoralist’s wife. Fifty years later, she relives these memories as she teaches Ruby, who has inherited her musical talents. Ruby is the heir to all this history, its sorrows and gifts, and she will be the one to save the family when her musical virtuosity lands her the chance of a lifetime.
I knew little about the history of Australia and was fascinated—and more than a little disheartened—to learn about the country’s treatment of aboriginals and ongoing racism. Mayes’s characters inspire sympathy, and I kept reading to learn more about them. The diction, however, made reading Gifts of the Peramangk difficult. Eight-year-old impoverished Ruby often speaks like an educated adult, as do the other children. The slang is jarring and awkward when used and detracts from the plot. That said, I finished the book feeling uplifted and grateful for the Australian history lesson.
|Central Avenue Publishing
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