Rain Birds

Rain Birds

eBook - 2017
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Alan and Pina have lived contentedly in isolated - and insular - Boney Point for thirty years. Now they are dealing with Alan's devastating early-onset Alzheimer's diagnosis. As he is cast adrift in the depths of his own mind, Pina is left to face the consequences alone, until the arrival of a flock of black cockatoos seems to tie him, somehow, to the present. Nearby, conservation biologist Arianna Brandt is involved in a project trying to reintroduce the threatened Glossy Black Cockatoos into the wilds of Murrungowar National Park. Alone in the haunted bush, and with her birds failing to thrive, Arianna's personal demons start to overwhelm her and threaten to undo everything. At first, when the two women's paths cross, they appear at loggerheads but, in many ways, they are invested in the same outcome but for different reasons. Ultimately, unexpected events will force them both to let go of their pasts and focus on the future. Rain Birds is a powerful and lyrical novel about love, grief and loss, one that examines personal tragedy as set against global and environmental responsibilities, and how we negotiate our often conflicting ideals. Harriet McKnight's work has been shortlisted for the 2014 Overland VU Short Story Prize, the 2015 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, and the 2016 Overland Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize. She works as Managing Editor of The Canary Press. Rain Birds is her debut novel.
Publisher: [Collingwood, Vic.] : 2017. Black Inc.,
ISBN: 9781925435795
1925435792
Branch Call Number: REM
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: Bolinda Digital BorrowBox

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Library_geek Sep 02, 2017

I felt like I was looking back at three years ago as I began reading this book, instead or Pina and Alan it was my mum and dad and I felt like author Harriet McKnight was telling their story. McKnight has put into words what I have been trying to, capturing those moments, days and hours that someone you love and have loved for so long becomes almost a stranger.

‘It’s me, Your wife.’

There were many heartbreaking moments in the book as Pina & Alan’s story was being told, both their journey the same but oddly different. One with memory and the ability to function as an adult, the other no longer himself – childlike, angry, aggressive, yet fragile.

Nearby, there is Arianna who is introducing the beautiful black cockatoos into the Murrungowar National Park. Being taken on a journey herself as she spirals into what can only be called chaos, as her obsession with the cockatoos masking, and eventually giving into things that have haunted her mind and being from time past.

Both journeys different but intertwining in an unexpected but somewhat fitting way, and while Pina and Arianna are not kindred spirits, the black cockatoos and Alan’s responsiveness see them invested in the same outcome.

McKnight has so beautifully capture the Victorian wilderness, you get a sense of being there – the smells, the open spaces, the trees dark at night. Being Australian, I understand very well the dry grass, the hot winds and the fierce summer sun that turns this story on its ends. As I turned each page I could smell that hazy smoke and my eyes almost watered thinking about it, knowing that what McKnight wrote was very real.

The character development was well done, Pina intrigued me somewhat but Alan remained a mystery to me which is what Alzheimer’s does to a person. I would love to have known him before Rain Birds because he seemed like a loveable and interesting person, with a little quirkiness on the side.
I did not see Arianna’s spiral downwards coming until the very last frantic moments, I kept thinking she would pick herself up, that she would understand that the cockatoos had chosen their new home because they were happy there. While we discover throughout that her insecurities come from elsewhere I felt early in the novel that she would be a stronger character and not one hiding hurt. You can tell the author had a clear vision from the outset and always knew Arianna.

The author has very realistically captured the subject of Alzheimer’s and dementia, the actions of Alan portrayed so accurately, his mannerisms, change in demeanor, a person lost. While the dementia part of the story did feature heavily I feel it was balanced well with Arianna, the cockatoos and some other sideline stories about a couple of the other townsfolk.

This is an outstanding piece of writing and I have been recommending it to people since I finished the last page. I appreciate so much our Australian authors bringing to us readers such good quality fiction, where our country is celebrated and stories resonate with us.

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