Many years ago I read Sunday’s Child, an autobiographical account written by Anne Lyken-Garner, of her difficult childhood in Guyana. In many ways, that book made the reading of The Far Away Girl a much richer experience.
The Far Away Girl
She dreamed of finding a new life…
Georgetown, Guyana 1970. Seven-year-old Rita is running wild in her ramshackle white wooden house by the sea, under the indulgent eye of her absent-minded father. Surrounded by her army of stray pets, free to play where she likes and climb the oleander trees, she couldn’t feel more alive.
But then her new stepmother Chandra arrives and the house empties of love and laughter. Rita’s pets are removed, her freedom curtailed, and before long, there’s a new baby sister on the way. There’s no room for Rita anymore.
With her father distracted by his new family, Rita spends more time alone in her bedroom. Desperate to fill up the hollow inside her, she begins to talk to the only photo she has of her mother Cassie, a woman she cannot remember.
Rita has never known what happened to Cassie, a poor farmer’s daughter from the remote Guyanese rainforest. Determined to find the truth, Rita travels to find her mother’s family in an unfamiliar land of shimmering creeks and towering vines. She finds comfort in the loving arms of her grandmother among the flowering shrubs and trees groaning with fruit. But when she discovers the terrible bruising secret that her father kept hidden from her, will she ever be able to feel happiness again?
A beautiful and inspiring story that will steal your heart and open your eyes. Fans of The Secret Life of Bees, The Vanishing Half and The Other Half of Augusta Hope will be captivated by The Far Away Girl.
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From the very first page of this book, I was enthralled by Rita’s character. Writing in her diary (replete with spelling errors), this 7 year old records her strong feelings of anger at her new stepmother’s attempt to rid the house of Rita’s beloved dogs and ants! A strong minded child, Rita is trying to come to terms with moving from the complete freedom that her loving but absent father allowed her to house ruled by her stepmother.
Her father, Jitty is a feckless character, who though good-intentioned can never keep his promises. Her stepmother, fooled into thinking that he’s rich marries him. She had no idea that his daughter was of mixed heritage and tries to avoid being seen in Rita’s company.
Rita is saved in some ways by her neighbour and her daughter, but still struggles with the pain and unanswered questions of what happened to her mother, Cassie. Her father refuses to give her details, and any relatives from her mother’s side are turned away. Yet these aunts continue to send her toys at first and then books and cards which she doesn’t respond too. She does enjoy the books though.
In this coming of age story, we see Rita struggling with unanswered questions, facing racial prejudice because of her curly hair, not getting enough of attention from her family and always feeling like a part of her is missing. The whispers about her being a ‘bastard’ and the cause of her mother’s death, leave her feeling guilty and confused.
When an older Rita finally journeys to her mother’s family home, she feels enveloped in the love of her grandmother, grandfather, aunts and cousins. However, she still doesn’t get the answers she’s looking for.
The author has done a great job of telling this story from different perspectives. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions, the very credible characters and the deeper issues of cultural and racial prejudice that were touched upon.
This is a story that tugs at your heart. A story of loss, weak characters, bad parenting, deep prejudice but overall a story of love that can truly overcome hurt and prejudice.
I absolutely enjoyed this read that made me smile at certain parts and moved me deeply too.
Meet The Author
Sharon Maas was born into a prominent political family in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1951. She was educated in England, Guyana, and, later, Germany. After leaving school, she worked as a trainee reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown and later wrote feature articles for the Sunday Chronicle as a staff journalist.
Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, is set in Guyana and India and was published by HarperCollins in 1999. In 2014 she moved to Bookouture, and now has ten novels under her belt. Her books span continents, cultures, and eras. From the sugar plantations of colonial British Guiana in South America, to the French battlefields of World War Two, to the present-day brothels of Mumbai and the rice-fields and villages of South India, Sharon never runs out of stories for the armchair traveller.
Connect with her on her website and on Twitter.
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Thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.