Continuing with the theme of sharks, following Kiran Millwood-Hargrave’s memorable story, I was recommended ‘The Shark Caller’ by Zillah Bethell and got stuck in this weekend. This is a beautiful story of friendship, loss and what it means to be alive. It’s set among the awe-inspiring scenery of Papua New Guinea where the author herself spent most of her early childhood.
Blue Wing lives with Siringen, her waspapi (carer) in a small hut by the sea. Their lives are disrupted when a researcher arrives from the States with his daughter Maple and wants to learn the secrets of what lurks in the ocean. At first the girls dislike each other, but they soon find out that they have more in common than they knew.
They end up working together to try and solve the mystery of what Maple’s dad is truly searching for, with clues cunningly peppered throughout the narrative. The story offers suspense, gorgeous descriptions of nature and a really fascinating insight into the clash of old and new in the Papua Guinean culture.
Below is a small extract which I particularly enjoyed. Here, Blue Wing has climbed to the top of the mountain and is surveying her village from above:
Looking straight down, I see the way I have just come: pandanus trees, ipil trees, oriana palms, ferns, twisting and curling orchids. A steep green rug of life and of air. The sea and the sky are the same colour today and it is difficult to piece them apart from each other. It is only the position of the other islands that shows me where the sea is, and the thin smoke of cloud that shows me where the sky has begun.
A deeply moving story which I would highly recommend. It also comes with a handy glossary of Papua New Guinean terms!