I’m not sure where to start with THE YIELD. It struck many a nerve for me. Even though the setting is Australia, so many of the concerns past and present are mirrored in America (and the natural resource issues parallel my very own home town where, each year, there is the worry that the gorgeous mountains in front of my home will be mined).
But I digress. This is not a story about me. THE YIELD by Tara June Winch is a story about culture, language, storytelling, belonging, family – and the horrific ripple effects of colonialism. In this case: Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal people and erasure of their culture. I am always struck by the shared atrocities placed upon indigenous people at the hands of white settlers no matter the country (including my own) — and the use of religion as justification. And yet, historically, this is most often the case. These themes are wholly present in the novel, but not preachy; they are facts, merely, that shape the sadness (and hope), and truth, of this tale.
I was drawn to all three narrative points of view equally and absolutely loved the way this book was structured – part epistolary, part narrative. We learn of events of historic cultural importance through an Aboriginal grandfather’s dictionary of his people’s (Wiradjuri) words, through the written letters of a white mission reverend, and through the traditional narrative of a young Aboriginal woman whose life has been anything but easy.
The writing was lovely, testament to the fact that this book won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, one of Australia’s most prestigious awards. Within, you’ll find delightful Australia-only flora and fauna descriptions, as well as a fabulous dictionary of Wiradjuri words at the end of the book.
Some samples, below (and also see my highlighted passages from the ebook) of the writing:
Willie wagtails quivered their feathers between the fatigued jasmine and weeping lilly pilly.
August woke late in the morning with the taste of mercury in her mouth. With her eyes still closed the smells wafted through the open window—the great early heating of the first Edible Things from outside. The oil in the gums, warm karrajong fruit splitting, the hot flesh-baring seeds, banksia flowers heavy with sugar—the syrup seeping off stuck stamens, and stigmas and ovaries.
For two good years people snapped ripe black plums from branches, stained teeth under mulberry trees; they took hunks of food into wide mouths.
I won’t soon forget August, Albert or Rev. Greenleaf, or the plight of the indigenous people in this book. THE YIELD is a moving read – thought-provoking – that I am still contemplating days later.
(A version of Melissa Crytzer Fry’s review of THE YIELD by Tara June Winch was published at GoodReads on May 28, 2021. It is reposted here with permission of the reviewer.)