An evocative story of family ties.
When 11-year-old Lucy’s older sister, Claire, has an accident while studying in Paris, the family Christmas is canceled as their mother rushes to her side. Lucy is dropped off to stay at her Aunty Big’s house in an isolated valley in the Australian bush. Lucy barely remembers her prickly aunt, and she resents staying with her. Then she discovers that the murals painted on Big’s dining room walls—each depicting a different season in the valley—are magical. One night, Lucy steps through the mural portraying spring and meets a child named April who seems oddly familiar. As Lucy slips into a different mural each night, she comes to realize that April is actually her Aunty Big when she was 12—and that the family she is getting to know in the magical valley is her own: her ancestors. Australian author Murray links past and present with sophisticated plotting and a wonderfully descriptive setting; the Australian bush comes alive in all its beauty and harshness, and the river that flows through both the past and present valley is an expressive metaphor for the flow of time. With a less accomplished writer, this kind of story could become simple nostalgia, but here it is triumphant.
A powerful story of life’s continuity; magical realism at its best. (Magical realism. 10-14)