Jane Alison’s new book is a quick read, and is definitely worth taking a look at. It begins with the story of Alice, Australian born and the daughter of Rosalind who is now married to Hal, a U.S. Foreign Service officer beginning a posting to Ecuador. What is evident of Hal is that he is descended from the imperialists of the past, confident that the ills that accompany foreign investment are far outweighed by the benefits. Rosalind eventually finds this distasteful, but has cast her lot with him and there is no turning back (we catch barely a glimpse of poor Rupert, Alice’s father, who is somewhere in Australia.) Alice is twice removed from her native soil and is about to be uprooted from Ecuador, when we shift to an earlier time, to see Alice’s grandmother, Violet, digging in that soil to build a homestead in Australia with her husband, Alf. Much is made of the transporting of species from one environment to another, and how sometimes the result is blight, and sometimes the result is deformity or a struggle with other species. In the end, though, when we shift back to Alice, she sees familiar palm trees at the opposite end of the earth, and perhaps we are meant to conclude that it is not impossible for natives and exotics to co-exist.
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Alison is a wonderful writer and an engaging personality (whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting numerous times, as she is teaching in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte). Her previous books are also definitely worth reading.