Title: The Crossing
Author: M.M. Riches
Publisher: Ginninderra Press, 2020
This intriguing Australian debut novel by M.M. Riches, a Ballarat Writers member, takes the reader back to the 1960s. A young nun travels to Cobbs Crossing, a country town in the Mallee, to work as a trainee teacher at St Cuthbert’s, an orphanage run by the Catholic Church.
Sarah, the protagonist, finds more than she bargained for at St Cuthbert’s. Most of the children are Aboriginal and although supposedly orphaned, she discovers many are not. A newspaper reporter befriends the young nun and together they uncover disturbing facts about the orphanage. Sarah is conflicted between her role and beliefs as a Catholic nun and her commitment to the children and to the truth.
The book shines a light on the devious and misguided ways that resulted in the mistreatment of Indigenous people by white Australians in the not-so-distant past. The author cleverly weaves humour and humanity into the more sinister and shocking aspects of this story. The book is finely researched and carries with it a poignant and important message. The characters are engaging and believable.
M.M Riches captures the essence of what it is to stand up for fairness and equity with a story arc that holds the reader until the very last page. The author is to be congratulated on this well-structured and beautifully written book.
2009 Australian of the Year Mick Dodson said in his testament to M.M. Riches’ novel, “Characters in this book are real. I have met them in my lifetime. They are part of the story of the Stolen Generations, an integral part of the shared history of our country. Every Australian should read this book”.
Reviewed by: Heather Whitford Roche, September 2020
Ballarat Writers Inc. book review group