Written by Zillah Bethell, Cover Illustrations by Saara Söderlund
Published by Usborne

This is an incredible book, one that will grip your heart and not let go. The journey of two young girls becomes intertwined as they meet, share their stories and learn that “the living should put the living above the dead”.

Blue Wing has lost her parents in a tragic shark attack as they were trying to protect and save her. She has never forgiven Xok, the shark for this attack and vows to kill him someday. Maple is new to the island and is grieving for her mother, recently passed away. It seems unlikely these two will become friends as they both carry so much anger and hurt in their hearts.

Over time, they begin to open up, share stories and become closer. Siringen, Blue Wing’s guardian, urges her to take care of Maple and help her heal. Perhaps knowing this will have a positive effect on her own emotions. As an elder in the village, Siringen is wise and trustworthy.

Siringen is the village shark caller, previously there to catch and kill them for food, but now just as a tradition. Blue Wing is desperate for Siringen to pass along these traditions to her, however, with so much anger in her heart, he refuses. Not to mention that girls cannot be shark callers, only men can have this role in the village.

Maple’s father has brought her to the island believing he is studying the coral reefs, but he is harbouring a secret and it threatens to tear them apart. With the guidance and honesty of Blue Wing, the girls work together to hunt for a mystery, and to try to find a way to get through to Maple’s father.

With both girls and their guardians as the main characters, there is a parallel. They all at times become leaders, offer guidance and love, or need to be told the truth, no matter how hard it may be to hear. The grown ups learn as much from their daughters as they in turn teach.

With a hundred pages to go and a determination to see what was going to happen, I sat down. I was transported back to the island, the sea and the friendship. I could not have foreseen the outpouring of emotion that was to come. Sometimes you read a book and it is a blow to the solar plexus….I was breathless, surprised, emotional.

This book will stay with me for a long time and I urge you to read this….brilliantly descriptive, both in setting and characters. Ingeniously interwoven and striking the right balance between tradition and modernity in Papua New Guinea.

Even the letter to the readers written by Zillah Bethell, is beautiful and full of the messages that come across in the narrative. No spoilers but I wonder if others will feel the same expanse of emotions as I did throughout the book.

One thought on “The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell

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