Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea reviewed by Marianne

Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea

This is a gem, parts of this book I read weeping with my hand over my heart. There were passages of such beauty and tenderness, especially when she was amongst her Aboriginal kin. For her it was a long journey back to her birth family, and a tough road at that.

Marie is not afraid to reveal her flaws, and the shortcomings of her adopted and birth family. With courage and honesty she lays bare her adopted parent’s abuse and lovelessness, as well as their hypocrisy. At the start of the book Marie is drinking way too much, particularly as she accidentally discovers her Aboriginal ancestry. She is twenty-eight years old and confronted with a dimly remembered past and a new identity. It is shocking, and it changes her life.

Marie is compelled to contact the priest who baptised her when she was eighteen months old, before she was removed from her family. The priest then reads out her letter to the congregation, and she is led back to her birth family. Her descriptions of her extended family are especially endearing. Marie deftly portrays character through dialogue, with warmth and humour she captures the laconic vernacular of her kin.

I loved her candour in describing her first encounter with her family, especially with `the woman who is supposed to be my mother … I’m your mummy,’ she says. `Come in and have a cup of tea.’ Her families living conditions also confront Marie. It is a world apart from the upright white, suburban family she was raised in, with no connection to her culture.

Over time Marie learns from her family, both of her origins and of the traditional ways. She also learns of herself, and of love. `I absorbed her (mummies) thoughts through my skin and breathed them into my lungs like air… I realise I’m seeing something through my mum’s eyes.’ Marie comes to `count my blessings, because I have only one chance at this life.’

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