This sequel continues the saga of the daughter of an Irish miner and an Aborigine woman in Australia.
It is 2015 and 12-year-old Lisa Maree is enjoying frolicking through the acreage of her grandparents’ Hillrock property outside the small city of Gympie in Queensland, accompanied by their border collie, Max. Hugging him, she feels Max shiver just before she hears a mournful wail: “Heartbreakingly intense, it rose and fell on the wind. It was a cry of human grief, but there was also longing and a drawn-out sigh—almost like a question.” Returning to the house, Lisa displays a pure white stone she found just before hearing the wail. Her grandmother Grace Daniels explains it is a Limga, “the Aboriginal word for any solid rock which had eternal properties.” It is on this mystical note that Roots (Marranga-Limga, 2015, etc.) sets her protagonists on a search into their long-forgotten family lineage, finally reaching back to the 1869 birth of Nika O’Reilly on the banks of the Mary River. Lisa’s Hillrock experience coincidently dovetails with the beginning of two research projects being undertaken by other 21st-century descendants of Nika and her husband, Tom Barritt—one inspired by the new grade-school teacher in Gympie interested in learning the history of the area, and the other involving an international effort to identify recently uncovered remains of World War I soldiers lost in France and Turkey. The relatively short novel has so many characters that it is difficult to keep track of them all. Fortunately, Roots provides a genealogical chart at the beginning, useful when readers become confused. The story also plays havoc with the timeline, jumping back to World War II before briefly returning to the present, and then back again to the 1940s. There’s a quick visit to the 1960s, and then a lengthy foray into the late 19th and early 20th century. It is here that the author successfully creates her most fully developed character, Nika. It is also the section richest in intriguing Gympie history and lore.
A spiritually infused homage to Australia’s diverse heritage hampered by an episodic structure.