I finished my previous book wondering where I would find the answers that it left behind, reaching for Beneath the Mother Tree by D M Cameron to fill the void I felt… only to find that Cameron has now made that void even greater with her wonderful blend of Indigenous storytelling and Irish mythological interlopers.
This book follows Ayla and Riley as they meet and discover themselves in a chaotic small-town island community that whispers secrets of a long-forgotten and heartbreaking past. They find themselves at the centre of a collision of two cultural identities, an exploration of colonial Australia’s past.
The story speaks to me on a level that I haven’t had in some time. Through Ayla, the author explores the idea that, even though she may be ‘fifth generation Australian on her grandmother’s side’, Ayla doesn’t truly feel Australian in a country that can’t reconcile its violent past with its original inhabitants. The clash of Indigenous story with Irish folklore acknowledges the way that the migrants brought with them their demons and superstitions. That darkness permeates every part of their existence.
The setting of a small-town country community allows this exploration to feel more natural, whilst allowing Cameron to offer commentary on events in a way that could only unfold in the backward places of isolated Australia. She characterises the story well, with a way of revealing the depths of the characters only as certain events occur.
I highly recommend this novel for lovers of intrigue, contemporary love stories and enthusiasts of Australian literature. It does the small-town vibe justice and Cameron teases out the story with just enough pace and foreshadowing that I just could not put it down. Not for those who need a closed ending to feel satisfied however. The novel left me asking more questions than it answered.
Reviewed by Zoe Butler
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: MidnightSun Publishing