Fuller has won several awards for her work, both in Australia and elsewhere, including the David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer with Ghost Bird in 2017. The book has at its centre the 5-day disappearance of Laney – the mirror twin of Stacey – and the frantic race to find her. Fuller has set the story in her hometown of Eidsvold, which contributes to the story’s undeniable authenticity.
Fuller makes clear that only the indigenous community joined in the search for Laney and that they were unflinching and united in their support. Racism is threaded through Eidsvold, for example in the focus on white communities in the local History Society archives, with no information about the injustices perpetrated on the indigenous peoples in their midst and the refusal of the police to take Laney’s disappearance seriously. The solidarity of Stacey’s ‘mob’ is organic-family ties and friends who have the community at the centre of their lives. There is no sense of a sentimental indulgence by Fuller here – this is the real thing.
The binding ties of the world of indigenous culture walk hand in hand with the harsh reality of life within a largely hostile white community. Stacey holds science close to her heart and yet she is constantly aware of the wisdom and folklore passed on through the generations and when she begins to have frighteningly vivid dreams about Laney she knows that her twin is still alive, but in great danger. She begins to piece together the clues in her nightmares and realises that an ancient evil force is at the root of Laney’s disappearance and she must break cultural taboos in order to save her twin’s life.
Fuller excels at creating tension and the narrative is often poised on a knife-edge of terror to which the reader is inexorably drawn in. The mysterious beings which have abducted and imprisoned Laney are intent on the destruction of all those who try to thwart them. Help comes from an unexpected source – the Millers, a family who the Thomsons have long avoided – and it is the apparent madness of May, the oldest member, which transforms into the advice and support which Stacey needs to summon in order to defy cultural taboos and act on the prompts in her clairvoyant dreams to rescue Laney. The scenes inside the mountain caves where she discovers Laney are cinematically horrific.
The characters in Ghost Bird come alive on the page: Fuller’s upbringing gives them rich detail and they find a place in the reader’s heart. We see both their difficult way of life within a white community and the strength of their indigenous culture in holding on to what is important. Language is often ripe but never offensive: often drawn from a shared colloquial idiom which sings with veracity.
This is a remarkable book – a window into an unfamiliar culture, a critique of racism and a story which bites hard and refuses to let go.