In this thriller, Gabriel Branch leaves his home on the Queensland coast to search the rugged outback for his best friend. Although Gabe is a biracial Aborigine, he lost all ties to his culture when the government forcibly removed him from his family when he was a child. Everything about the red desert seems alien including the artifact, a message stick, that is his only clue.
While crisscrossing the unforgiving terrain he draws the attention of Dana Pukatja, a Pitjantjatjara shaman who runs the smuggling ring. Using his traditional knowledge and many tricks, he stalks Gabe to keep him from discovering the truth. As Gabe struggles with the loss of both his friend and his biological family, the shaman draws closer. The men clash on an arid plain of twisted mulga shrub far from any law except that of the outback itself.
Message Stick provides a panoramic look at Australia, its land, its peoples and the social issues that continue to this day. The novel won two national awards and was supported by The Jerome Foundation, the New York Mills Cultural Center and Cornucopia Arts Center.
Dreamtime tales, with their beautiful, spare styles and eternal lessons, are woven throughout Message Stick.
“Ms. Cunningham shows an Australia beautiful and brutal. You know it isn’t going to be a gentle ride but you’re still not expecting to be kicked out of your seat onto the desert floor, rolling to a stop in the sharp-as-glass spinifex. Don’t be surprised when you want to put it down but can’t.” – Garrison Somers, Editor-in-Chief, The Blotter literary magazine
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