Grace beside Me (Sue McPherson, Magabala)
One of the winners of the inaugural black & write! kuril dhagun Indigenous Writing Fellowship, Grace beside Me is a YA debut that is simply written but affecting nonetheless. After the heroin-overdose death of her mother, Fuzzy Mac (so called because of her hair and her surname McCardell) goes to live with her grandparents in a little country town in NSW. Despite the occasional clip on the ear for misbehaviour, her new home is a safe and protected haven for Fuzzy. Written in the first person, the matter-of-fact narrative is broken into short chapters, each one dealing with the goings-on in the neighbourhood. There are pockets of violence, criminality and eccentricities as with any close close-knit community, but the strong moral support of Nan and Pop keep Fuzzy from trespassing too far into the wild side. Nan is Koorie, Pop is a descendant of South Sea Islands and this Indigenous background is handled adroitly. The novel is a keen celebration of the importance of family that also touches on mission homes, the Stolen Generations and a spiritual connection to the land. The ‘Grace’ of the title is seen as a physical entity who sits beside Fuzzy in times of trouble. It is pitched at an early to middle secondary level.
Thuy On is a Melbourne-based reviewer and manuscript assessor