Lorraine is a much awarded author of children’s novels including Leave Taking and collections of poetry. Here she has written a verse novel about loss and finding your own voice in her signature understated style.
The time of the novel, 1969, is important as it is just before the moon landing and during the time of protests about conscription and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. That is the big picture but the reader sees all this through the eyes of Sharnie, a young girl more concerned with her struggles to find her place in her first year at high school and managing her uneasy relationship with her older sister Cas, with whom she shares a bedroom (unheard of today). It is only gradually that Sharnie becomes aware of and involved in the issues of the day.
Early on in the novel Sharnie loses her beloved grandmother, a war widow, and often in the time that follows Sharnie is overwhelmed by her grief, but it does help her understand and recognize other people coping with loss. Since starting high school her relationship with her friend Mia from primary school is changing and she develops a friendship with Gail, who is a bit of an outsider. Gail is grieving too as she has lost her brother, conscripted and sent to fight in the Vietnam war. It is all brought home to Sharnie when Cas becomes involved with a returned Vietnam veteran and starts joining protesters, much to the horror of their father, an arch conservative. Gradually Sharnie learns how to make her own footprints in life and the story, full of grief and conflict, ends on a positive note
Familiar themes of dementia, bullying, child- parent relationships, finding your own voice, sibling relationships – along with a picture of how significant events happening in the world and beyond our control impact on our daily lives flesh out the story.
Lorraine writes in a simple restrained style and manages to make complex matters easily accessible to young readers in this novel rich with imagery and emotion.