BORDERLAND ~ A Trilogy: Re–entry —  Jihad —  Cameleer

Rosanne Hawke

Lothian Books

The thread stitching these three stories together is the character of Jaime Richards, an Australian girl brought up in Pakistan. In Re-entry, she experiences an unexpected homesickness for her adopted country and a deep sense of dislocation as her family relocate back to Australia. Everything is strange and she feels both confusion and loss as the awkwardness of adolescence vies with the awkwardness that comes from cultural ignorance.

To express her feelings, Jaime begins to write a journal but it soon becomes a flight of romantic fancy. Her teacher astutely identifies the mysterious stranger in it as an idealised personification of Pakistan itself.

As she slowly begins to unravel the mysterious language cues of her own culture, real friendships start to develop. Danny and Blake both come from a background of colliding cultures and are able to help her come to terms with her mixture of feelings.

Borderland is not just for those who are trying to re-assimilate into a culture to which they nominally belong. It’s for everyone who feels like a fish out of water, everyone who feels alien in their own land, everyone who feels lost in trying to integrate into a new school, everyone who yearns to be accepted just for themselves and not because they’re part of the right group or wear the right clothes.

The second story in the trilogy, Jihad has all the elements of an adventure thriller. Jaime returns to Pakistan where her parents were aid workers. While catching up with old friends still at the International School, she meets Sonya, a mysterious self-assured girl who offers a lift in an embassy car. Sonya neglects to tell her it’s Russian. It’s indicative of things to come. Sonya’s habit of not telling people all she could results in Jaime’s abduction. Her friends, Jasper and Liana, are captured while trying to rescue her.

Embroiled in a tense and complex political situation, they are taken through the breath-taking Kyber Pass to a tribal stronghold in Afghanistan.  Jasper is in turmoil, quietly raging at God and everyone around him, friend and enemy. He realises that this is the very area where his father—an American doctor—was killed by a land mine on the road. His unexpressed grief becomes scorching pain as he determines that, whatever the cost, he will ensure the safety of his friends.

Little do they know but there’s only one piece of advice anyone in authority who is aware of their situation would offer them: stay put. Do not try to escape under any circumstances.

Even Sonya, the half-Russian half-tribal girl who should know better, goes along with Jasper’s plan to leave under cover of darkness. It’s not long before disaster overtakes them.

In Cameleer, the scene changes again and the style of story with it. Jaime has returned to Australia after her dramatic rescue in Afghanistan. She has promised herself she will write down a story Liana told to comfort her during their captivity. She has also promised drop-dead gorgeous sensitive new age guy Blake Townsend she’ll come as a cook to his father’s cattle property in the far north.

But Blake at home is not the Blake Jaime knew at school. She is appalled by his cruelty to his little sister Liesa and stung by her inability to draw the reason for his behaviour out of him.

She befriends Liesa through story-telling. The little girl blossoms as she begins to identify with Liana and to take on the role of the legendary ‘Cameleer’. But a past tragedy casts a long shadow in her life and that of her brother.

Cameleer blends myth and adventure, heartbreak and homecoming, romantic tension and family conflict to bring Borderland to a satisfying conclusion.

Like Hawke’s Wolfchild, it mingles elements of legend with family adventure to create a background hint of fantasy which only occasionally steps into the limelight. And like her Soraya the Storyteller, the motif of storytelling is woven through the book. Just as the secret designs knotted into the carpets made by the tribal community in Jihad are clear if you look closely, so too is the message threaded all throughout Borderland: stories bring understanding, healing and restorative change.

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