Gifts of the Peramangk by Dean Mayes
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.
Summary: In 1950s Australia, during the height of the divisive White Australia Policy, Virginia, a young Aboriginal girl is taken from her home and put to work on an isolated and harsh outback station. Her only solace: the violin, taught to her secretly by the kind-hearted wife of the abusive station owner. However, Virginia's prodigious musical gift cannot save her from years of hardship and racism.
Decades later, her eight year old granddaughter Ruby plays the violin with the passion Virginia once possessed. Amidst poverty, domestic violence and social dysfunction, Ruby escapes her circumstance through her practice with her grandmother's frail, guiding hand. Ruby’s zeal attracts the attention of an enigmatic music professor and with his help, she embarks on an incredible journey of musical discovery that will culminate in a rare opportunity. But with two cultural worlds colliding, her gift and her ambition will be threatened by deeply ingrained distrust, family jealousies and tragic secrets that will define her very identity.
Review: A very touching and moving tale of a young girl who is able to leave an abusive past behind and truly make something of herself.
Australia seems like a world away to me (and I do believe it’s half a world away). As a white American, I have never experienced the type of racism that Ruby and her family go through. I was also unaware that there was such ill treatment of Aborigines in the 20th century in Australia although it should come as no surprise. I do share a similar childhood background as Ruby does so I can sympathize with her plight.
I do feel that even if a reader has nothing in common with Ruby and her family, they will still feel a variety of emotions including sympathy, despair, hope, and joy. Ruby is incredibly talented although life seems to be conspiring to work against her. It really did seem like Ruby would be stuck in that depressing situation forever. Luckily, after a series of events Ruby was able to pull the pieces back together and finally pursue her dreams. My one qualm is that there was too many coincidences and too many happy accidents, which made the happy ending seem a bit forced.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those who enjoy stories of people triumphing over adversity or fiction set in Australia.