"'The world had changed. As far as the eye could see, the earth was red. It wasn't orange, or soil red, or brown red, or perhaps all of them at once. It was profound rich red, glittering deeply in the mid-morning light. She was vaguely aware of having known that somewhere in Australia the land was this colour but the reality of it was startling and stunning.'
"Hiam is the story of a journey through both a psychic and geographic landscape, a journey through disintegration and loss. Hiam, an Arab migrant woman, abandons Adelaide to unravel her life and memories on the road North after her family and identity have been destroyed. In the course of the novel she weaves an identity out of past, present, stories, dreams and the Australian landscape with which she engages for the first time.
"On one level, this is the story of a migrant's experience in a strange land, a novel which explores the pressures, fragilities and strengths of exiled communities. It is also a story of universal human grief, individual courage and the will, not only to survive, but to live fully in the world."
As she headed beyond the confines of the known outer suburbs and beyond Mallala, the home of the furthest visited relative, she was ejected from her familiar Australia into a vast, monochromatic land, stitched up with patchy fences, overlaid with weedy paddocks, stubbly paddocks, golds, browns, and more subtle browns. The broken stalks of some rusty-coloured plant stuck up untidily from the bare allotments. Some of them were filled with rusty rolls of wire and dilapidated machinery None of it was empty enough to be desolate but it was all the worse for that. The joyless and scrambled buildings and the wilting horses on grassless paddocks made it seem emptier than desolation. It was new and it was ugly. Even the dull leaves of the exhausted trees seemed brown. The car roared, the wheels grinding into the road with an inexhaustible energy, the engine shaking her through the thighs and buttocks, soothing, mind-numbing, leading and accompanying her into the unknown.
From the Allen and Unwin paperback edition, 1998.
This novel was the winner of the Australian/Vogel Award in 1997.
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Last modified: December 20, 2001.