Title: Where The Fruit Falls
Author: Karen Wyld
Where The Fruit Falls is Karen Wyld’s debut award-winning novel which delves into an intergenerational family full of strong First Nations women who are finding their connection to their land amidst an unjust colonial Australia. The story is poignant and beautiful while exposing the harsh reality of Australia’s colonial history—a history which is still impacting First Nations peoples today. Wyld emphasises the impact that history—personal and collective—has on our present and future within her novel. Where The Fruit Falls is the winner of the 2020 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.
The novel begins from the point of view of Maeve, grandmother of Brigid, and ends with the point of view of Brigid’s twin daughters, Victoria and Margaret. Their family history is told through stories passed between different family members and through the experiences they endure and share in together. The family dynamic reminds me of my own family history and the stories which have been shared with me from my own mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. The power of story-telling within matrilineality is beautiful and is the core of Where The Fruit Falls. All of the character’s precious family memories are passed down from grandmother to granddaughter, to great-granddaughters. And so too are their traumas. Maeve remembers that the ‘kisses of yesterday’s skin last forever’, and the reader learns that pain and grief also last forever unless there is change and healing. The intergenerational story told in Where The Fruit Falls unfolds over twenty chapters with the point of views naturally moving from Maeve to Brigid to Victoria and Margaret. Their stories are intertwined but also entirely their own as they learn to grow into themselves and their history.
The magical realism laced throughout the novel brings a profound and earnest layer to the lives of the female characters and their relationship with the women who have come before them. As a reader, I revelled in the bright and evocative language which surrounds Maeve, Brigid, Victoria and Margaret’s lives. Wyld uses magical realism expertly in a way akin to Isabel Allende. Moreso, Wyld ensures that its use feels uniquely Australian—as if it belongs to the characters themselves—and adds a rich dimension to the female character’s memories. While time may pass and figures dissolve into memories, their presence remains within those who are living and follow them along every step of the way. This is the beauty of Where The Fruit Falls—the reader is reminded of their family and how they carry parts of their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents as they traverse through life.
As a white, non-Indigenous woman with an English heritage, I constantly read with the knowledge that Australia’s colonial history has left an unconscious bias within me that I must work to recalibrate in order to learn from and listen to First Nations authors. To read and review Where The Fruit Falls is a privilege, and I encourage other non-Indigenous readers to consider their own bias when consuming novels written by First Nations peoples. In turn, this enables us to ‘uncover the truth and call for action that often lies hidden in fiction’ (Wyld. 2020).
Where The Fruit Falls is a story to remember and will soon become an Australian classic. At a time when more people are acting to educate themselves on our tumultuous history and learn from the past, this is a novel which underscores the lives and tribulations of many First Nations peoples. Wyld pays homage to those who have dedicated their lives to fight for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights while also highlighting the work which still needs to be done, by all Australians, to become a country where healing and learning are paramount.