Thursday, July 23, 2020

Review of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (2018, Penguin)

Beth Teller died in a car accident. Now she haunts her broken-hearted father, who’s a detective. When he’s sent to small town to investigate a fire at a children’s home which killed an un-identified person, she accompanies him. While the local police chief is keen to wrap the case up as the result of an electrical failure, Beth’s father is suspicious; more so after he discusses the fire with a witness – Isobel Catching who tells an oblique tale that seems to have little to do with the inferno. Like Beth’s father, Catching can see and converse with Beth. Shortly after, two bodies are found in the town, seemingly dropped from the sky. Beth’s father calls in fellow city cops to help, sensing that other crimes are surfacing.

Catching Teller Crow is pitched as a young adult read, but its story and themes will resonate with readers of all ages. While told as a kind of literary supernatural police procedural, it is probably better to describe it as a meeting of Western and aboriginal traditions of storytelling hooked around two principle characters/voices. Beth Teller is a mixed race teen who has died in a car accident and haunts her grieving father, who’s a detective. Isobel Catching is an aboriginal girl who witnesses a fire that burns down a remote children’s home and kills a man. Beth’s tale sets out the investigation into the fire led by her father. Isobel’s tale is told more obliquely as a kind of dreamlike poem. The two stories cast light on the intersection of two cultures and issues of grief, colonial violence, and resilience. I thought it was a very moving, thoughtful, and thought-provoking tale that nicely blends different forms of storytelling. It’s a little short in the telling, but nonetheless is a substantive and engaging read with some very evocative prose.

No comments: