Gretchen Shirm reviews 'Rain Birds' by Harriet McKnight

Gretchen Shirm reviews 'Rain Birds' by Harriet McKnight

Rain Birds

by Harriet McKnight

Black Inc., $29.99 pb 282 pp, 9781863959827

In Harriet McKnight’s début novel, a story about early onset dementia is offset by a second conservation-focused narrative involving the glossy black cockatoo. This braided structure immediately creates anticipation about where and how the two stories will meet.

Pina is the primary carer for her husband, Alan, whose illness now dictates the rhythm of their lives. The illness is erasing Alan’s memory along with his personality as it becomes increasingly difficult for him ‘to keep a grip on what was real and what wasn’t’. Pina is steadfast in her determination to care for him at home, even when his symptoms begin to feel ‘like a personal affront’.

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Gretchen Shirm

Gretchen Shirm

Gretchen Shirm’s collection of interwoven short stories Having Cried Wolf was published in September 2010 and was shortlisted for the UTS/Glenda Adams Award for New Writing. In 2011, she was named as aSydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Novelist. Her writing has been published in The Australian, Best Australian Stories 2011, Review of Australian Fiction, Southerly, Sydney Review of Books and The Saturday Paper. She is a candidate for her Doctor of Creative Arts at the Writing & Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney.

Published in October 2017, no. 395

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