Metal fish, falling snow by Cath Moore

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Text Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781922330079.
(Age: YA) Recommended. Dylan's French Mum is dead and now they will never go to Paris together, instead she is left with Pat O'Brien, her Mum's boyfriend who has his own issues. The outback Australian town of Beyen is far from the sea where Dylan could find a ship to take her Mum back to France, instead she is buried in the cemetery and Dylan wonders "How can I be real without Mum?" p21. 14 year old Dylan doesn't fit in, both for her brown skin and fuzzy hair and the way she sees the world so acutely, she has been called "dumb as a stump, or smart as a stick" or "a teabag: takes a while for things to filter through" p7; we would put her on the autism spectrum but she has the ability to see inside some people's lives. Pat and Dylan set out on a road trip away from the town heading towards her father's family she has never met. They travel from pub to pub, Pat distributing promotional material for a brewery and gambling away his money on the pokies. Dylan takes with her a tiny metal fish she found while running away from one of her Dad's angry outbursts before he left them forever, and a snow dome containing the Eiffel Tower her Mum gave her, along with a photo of Dylan and her Mum in happier times. Dylan blames herself for her Mum's death, and she is travelling towards the Guyanan family associated with her violent father but she courageously tries to make sense of her shifting world and create a new story for herself. "Your heart can't grow when it's hurting like that. I keep thinking of Mum, where the boat is, who I can be without her" p86.
Told in the first person, from Dylan's very idiosyncratic perspective, it took a while to adjust and let the story swirl through the text. A second reading would be very rewarding because the voice is consistent with an authentic edge suggesting the author's own Irish/Afro-Caribbean heritage has informed the writing. Viewed through her unique perspective Dylan struggles with grief, identity and the prejudices she encounters growing up with a coloured skin in Australia. In losing the mother she needed, Dylan lost the only family she knew; in reconnecting with lost relatives she finds someone who needs her. A sometimes funny, often profound story that will reward the effort of reading Dylan's own voice narrative, seeing the world through different eyes. "No point running from yourself 'cause wherever you go, there you are" p244.
Recommended for young adult readers with Australian curriculum detailed teaching notes available from the publisher. Themes: Grief, Identity, Mixed race heritage, Family.
Sue Speck