The Voices

The Voices

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In the remote, blood red dust of the Australian bush, thirteen-year-old Billy Saint finds guidance--not from his parents or their Western culture--but from the landscape itself. He turns to the outback, drawing the only joy he's known from simply watching and mimicking the kangaroos. On his trips alone to the bush near his home, he begins to hear the Voices of the country, inscrutable figures that are alternately repulsed and attracted by the modern world. Alone, they squabble with themselves and the Wind, ever slighted by the Aboriginals who no longer hear them. They turn to Billy, sensing that he, although white, may be their last hope for survival. But it is Maisie, an enigmatic and ghostly Aborigine girl, and a friend to the Voices, who befriends Billy on one of his forays, and together they explore the land and each other's worlds, leaving the Voices to wallow in their sloth and despair. As Billy ventures further into the untamed land, his parents are drawn deeper into their own private miseries, unable to reach out to their son before he drifts away. Confused by the quiet desperation at home, and terrified of the power he finds in the Voices of the bush, Billy flees to the relative safety and quiet of an underground mining community. The cacophonous sounds of the mine drown out the Voices, and he begins to feel relatively safe within this new community. Ten years later Billy is alone in a hospital, recovering from gruesome wounds of mysterious origin. Protecting him from the prying of the doctors, who believe him a dangerous schizophrenic responsible for the mad beating of a man on a train, is Cecily, an aboriginal nurse, and in her Billy finds an unlikely ally as he struggles to piece himself back together. For it is Cecily who understands what his wounds signify, even if she has never seen them on a white man before. Shifting between his hospital stay and the childhood that lead him there, The Voices unfolds into a mesmerizing exploration of the relationship between a man, the land he loves, and the spirits of the country, struggling to be heard before it is too late. With her haunting and psychologically complex tale of one boy who has internalized the trauma and the schisms of his land and its history, Elderkin boldly exposes the long and forceful arm of institutionalized injustice, and the inescapable hold of collective memory. The Voices is an extraordinary accomplishment.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 323 pages
  • 138 x 206 x 24mm | 421.85g
  • Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0802141706
  • 9780802141705

Review quote

"Elderkin's dialog effortlessly conjures intricate characters and settings, highlighting the dangerous confrontations between cultures in the outback." -Purdence Peiffer, Library Journal "Certainly brilliant. . . . Beautifully written, melancholy, fey, angry and utterly absorbing. . . . Part fable, part coming-of-age story." -Cressida Connolly, The Daily Telegraph (UK) "As a writer she is the real thing, and the novel, tender, sensual and genuinely original. . . . Evidence of great talent." -Maggie Gee, The London Times (UK) "Susan Elderkin's characteristically dazzling techniques are on display in all their virtuosity and freakish inventiveness. . . . She is without equal." -The Independent (UK)

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