SUMMARY (from Goodreads): All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives – the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.
Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.
Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.
The beginning felt a little slow, but that later on proved necessary as it provided the fine cues for the rest of the story.
I was initially wary of the first person POV. However, Liza Perrat manages to pull off the 11-year-old’s language and rationale with great authenticity and without impoverishing the story. Quite the contrary, the style imbued with local linguistic flavour only enriches it.
While Tanya’s uncle was the sort of a bad person that made me root for the mobsters to take him out, I couldn’t help myself thinking that had he received some help and support, he might not have become what he had. The victim-turned-perpetrator stereotype doesn’t sit well with me: some victims do turn out just like their abusers, but it is not inevitable if the people close to the victims and the society at large offer them proper help.
I loved how in The Silent Kookaburra Perrat seamlessly and with great insight incorporates a number of issues which are still current (or which are, really, current in every age.) These range from poverty, domestic violence, depression, loss of a child, alcoholism, superstition and prejudice against immigrants and people of other religions, and probably some more that I forgot about.
Tanya herself has a lot on her plate, dealing with alienated parents (from each other and the children), bullying, low self-esteem, having to grow-up early, and being the target of the mysterious uncle who says all the right things to make her feel good but has nefarious intentions towards her.
In several ways, I could relate to Tanya, and Liza Perrat captured her struggles in a very genuine manner that truly resonated with me.
At the end of the story, one of the main mysteries of the book remained unresolved. But that is just life; we don’t always get all the answers.
And finally, I loved that Tanya got her happy ending, albeit it was a bit clichéd, and that certain prejudices were overcome for the good of everyone involved.
RECOMMENDATION: The Silent Kookaburra is an incredibly rich story set at the beginning of the era I would consider ‘modern’ that provides a wealth of food-for-thought for everyone not afraid to dig into some, perhaps uncomfortable, but still very current and important issues, and is, therefore, a very compelling read.
The author has sent me a free copy of The Silent Kookaburra in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.