Grief is never an easy subject to write about, with everyone’s journey through personal loss being such an individual and isolating path.
Lia Hills’ stunningly poetic story of one man’s path is touching and beautiful, with just the right amount of humour added to ease his suffering. It’s not a traumatic read by any means, but one that is uplifting and insightful.
Saul learns one of his dearest travelling mates, Jed, has died by his own hands. Unable to accept the death of a friend who was so full of life, particularly by suicide, he sets out on a long, arduous journey to a remote Aboriginal community in the Australian outback to meet Nara, the woman who had stolen Jed’s heart. From her, he hopes to learn why Jed left her for the big city and ultimately took his own life.
Hills’ narrative lives and breathes the beauty and harshness of the outback. As Saul makes his journey, meeting a plethora of colourful characters along the way, the landscape begins to have an equal effect on him. In the remote community, Saul meets the mysterious Nara and joins the community, coming to understand how to live in the local culture and with the harsh conditions of the land.
While the story takes a lackadaisical route, meandering through Saul’s grief and personal journey, The Crying Place is never dull, never uninteresting and never off-course. Hills keeps Saul’s experiences focussed on his ultimate goal of acceptance. The story is also a respectful and impressive insight into life on the lands and the lives of some of Australia’s traditional owners. It never shies away from facing stereotypes, but adds context without judgement, exploring Nara’s community with depth and feeling.
A beautiful ode to grief, loss and belonging.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Released by: Allen & Unwin
Release Date: March 2017