This is the first book by South East Queensland writer Ellen Van Neervan, a young woman who belongs to the Yugambeh people of the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim. The book comprises three parts; Heat, Water and Light. It is a trilogy with a strong sense of spirituality woven into its characters – even the ones who have become disconnected from their families and culture.
Heat is a story that is sexual and spiritual at the same time. It tells the story of three generations of the Kresingers, and the ‘curse’ left by the mystical Pearl.
Pearl Kresinger is an ethereal free spirit, flowing in and out of people’s lives with the wind. She appears to move in and out of the spirit world with total sexual freedom, uninhibited by social expectations or familial ties, including the tie to her own baby son. Charlie Kresinger is Pearl’s son, raised by her sister Marie and husband Griffin as their own. He is an activist and free spirit, unable to commit himself to the two women who love him. Amy Kresinger is Pearl’s grandaughter. Burdened by restlessness and uninhibited sexuality, she describes her curse as sex addiction.
Water is the second story in the trilogy. It is set in the future when Australia has become a republic, and President Tanya Sparkle has an agenda for the advancement of Aboriginal people. It includes an apparently simplistic solution for displaced Aboriginal people; displace them even further to Australia 2, a new island to be formed from existing islands in Moreton Bay. What is hidden from the public are the sinister plans for the mysterious plant people inhabiting the islands. The story centres around Kaden’s awakening to the connection with her family and ancestors. It’s about belonging to Country and, ultimately, possessing the bravery to protect it.
Light is written as a series of short stories, some with obvious interconnections between characters, some not so obvious. The stories share dark themes: displacement from Country and family; abandonment; survival in a brutal environment; misdirected romance; violence and mental illness.
Van Neervan’s writing style is loose and poetic, and allows the reader to immerse themselves in the characters’ metaphysical and physical lives. She is a talented new Australian writer and well worth looking out for in the future.
Ellen Van Neervan will be at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, 7 – 9 August 2015.