Friday, October 18, 2013

Retro read: 'I am not Esther' by Fleur Beale

Kirby leads a comfortable life with her mother, even though at times it feels as though she is the parent.  They don't have a lot of money, but they share what they can and provide a lot of support for their friends and neighbours.  All that changes when Ellen announces that they are leaving Auckland for a new life and Kirby is ripped away from the only home she has ever known.  Kirby is frustrated and furious, but when they arrive at their destination Kirby discovers that things are worse than she thought because her mother is leaving New Zealand to work in Africa, and Kirby is going to live with an aunt and uncle she never knew she had.

Not only does Kirby have to learn how to live with a large family, she soon discovers that they are part of an extremely religious group called the Children of the Faith.  It is more than just a culture shock for Kirby, she now has to follow the Rule and shun the distractions of the modern world - but she has also been renamed "Esther".   With her world wrenched away from her, Kirby struggles to hold on to her identity as the harsh rules of the Children of the Faith begin to wear away at the edges of who she is - and when she reaches out for help she discovers that her mother was keeping more than one secret from her.

I am not Esther is not an easy read or light and fluffy, however it is one of those books that stays with you for a long time because of the "realness" you feel with what Kirby goes through.  A powerful read that has more than held it's own over the years, I am not Esther is a real modern New Zealand classic.

Title: I Am Not Esther
Author: Fleur Beale
ISBN: 9781869799076
Published: 1998
Publisher: Longacre Press

- Em, Central City Library


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