“The mountain loomed over him in a formless green haze. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened then again. This time, he saw how the trees stretched up, and how the late afternoon light danced between the trunks like runaway waterfalls, and how the narrow, almost hidden dirt road waited for them. A snake in the bush…”
– Sarah Kanake, Sing Fox to Me
In 1986, fourteen-year-old twins Samson and Jonah travel from the Sunshine Coast to the wild backcountry of Tasmania to live on a mountain with a granddad they’ve never met. Clancy Fox is a beat-up old man obsessed with finding his long-missing daughter, River. He’s convinced that she was taken by a Tasmanian tiger pack.
The resentful, brooding Jonah and thoughtful, inquisitive Samson become entranced, in different ways, with the
mountain. While Samson – who has Down syndrome – finds mystery and delight all around, Jonah develops a dark obsession as persistent as Clancy’s desire to bring River home.
When Sing Fox to Me by Sarah Kanake appeared in the letter box one day, I held it in my hand and had a funny sense that is was going to be a very, very interesting read. I wasn’t wrong. This beautifully atmospheric and melancholy story tells the story of a family weighed down by the past, unable to see that history is repeating in front of their very eyes. It is a story set deep within the Tasmanian wilderness with strong connections to the land and the forces of nature. It is a story of isolation, geographically speaking, as well as the emotional distance of family members who fail to connect with one another.
After his wife walks out on him, David packs himself and his twin boys, Jonah and Samson, in the car and takes them from Queensland to the depths of Tasmania to his father’s remote property. Their arrival is met with awkwardness and emotional distance; David’s father Clancy is a slightly unstable old man living under the heavy guilt of his daughter’s disappearance from so many years before. He refuses to believe that the Tasmanian Tiger is truly extinct and that they hold the key to the mystery surrounding River Snow Fox’s disappearance. When David skips out and leaves the boys on the farm, Clancy, Jonah and Samson each develop their own solitary routines to minimise any time spent together. When one of the twin’s goes missing, it brings to light the depth of pain felt by those involved and leads to an understanding of what happened all those years before.
Sing Fox to Me is a distinctly Australian novel in its language and story; it is an ode to the Australian bush and all its wildness and beauty. Kanake explores the deep connection humans form with the land and the primal nature inside of us. Most of the characters are quiet and broody; the themes of loss, abandonment and betrayal hang heavy over the story. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom; Samson has Down’s Syndrome and is easily the most likable character in the book. Kanake has given him the power to be sensitive and insightful, particularly when it comes to his disability and how it is perceived by others. He feels the weight of the extra chromosome however it doesn’t hinder the bonds he creates with others. Sing Fox to Me is a stunning debut novel and I really, really cannot wait to see what Kanake does next. It is a wonderful piece of Australian literature!
To celebrate this wonderful book, I am giving away a copy to the first reader who emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Good luck and enjoy!
AUTHOR: Sarah Kanake
PUBLISHER: Affirm Press
PUB DATE: March 2016
Thank you to Affirm Press for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!