Published in 2019 by Penguin Random House
Genre: Adult Fiction, Family Saga Fiction
Page Count: 291
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Pearl remembers Nell’s feet stretched towards the campfires on the beach, her fourth toe curled in and nestled against the middle toe like a small prawn. They all have a curled fourth toe – Diana, Lucy, Pearl.
When Pearl’s grandmother Nell dies unexpectedly, Pearl and her family – mother Diana, sister Lucy – return to Kangaroo Island to mourn and farewell her. Each of them knew Nell intimately but differently, and each woman must reckon with Nell’s passing in her own way. But Nell had secrets, too, and as Pearl, Diana and Lucy interrogate their feelings about the island, Pearl starts to pull together the scraps Nell left behind – her stories, poems, paintings – and unearths a connection to the island’s early history, of the early European sealers and their first contact with the Ngarrindjeri people.
As the three women are in grief pulled apart from each other, Pearl’s deepening connection to their history, the island’s history, grounds her, and will ultimately bring the women back to each other.
Heart of the Grass Tree is an exquisite, searing and hope-filled debut about mothers and daughters and family stories, about country and its living history.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Penguin Books Australia in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
I must admit, before going into this book, I truly didn’t know what to expect, I’d only heard about the author and knew she was from Adelaide, and the book was mostly set in Kangaroo Island, so I was definitely intrigued to see what it was all about and also of course to read more local authors!
What I found when I first started this book, was that I was moved beyond words! As soon as I met Nell, near the end of her days, I instantly felt like I was losing someone close to me! The way this story was crafted, starting from Nell’s own words, just set the foundation for a story unlike no other! I don’t read many books that focus on families at its core, but if Molly Murn writes more- I will happily read them all!
Honestly, her writing is honestly so beautifully crafted, I could hardly put this book down! It felt like I was part of this family, going along with Pearl as she tries to cope with the death of possibly the one that loved her the most, as well as her sister Lucy, who I feel like just wanted to be a proper family with her sister and mother, often feeling a distance between the one she was closest to and then we have Diana, Nell’s daughter, who never felt as close to her elder daughter as Pearl felt to Nell. It was such an emotional experience, reading about all these characters and Molly Murn told the book from each of these different characters’ perspectives, so I easily felt myself invested in their lives, grieving along with them! I loved how the book spread across each characters’ past and present, swiftly conveyed across the dialogue!
In between each chapter, we also had reflections from the deceased Nell, which was just so emotional once you learnt how everything in this story was getting tied together! I could hardly put this beautiful book down, I loved being a part of this journey! Nell had gone through so much heartache, I mean she…well, y’know what, I won’t say any more on that front because I really think this book ought to be experienced!
And just the gorgeous lyrical writing! The setting! How the Ngarrindjeri people had a connection to the story and the land of course, I daresay I don’t think I’ll be forgetting about Maringani or any of these characters any time soon and I remember when I started reading about their scenes and wondering how they’d connect to Nell, and just feeling utter emotion when I did! This book is easily one of the most beautiful and best I’ve read, everyone needs to pick it up!