Jaya’s world is in turmoil. Her mother has died, an embryonic relationship with her would-be lover Leah has collapsed, her father has given up his job….and now he insists that they travel to Edinburgh because he has become utterly obsessed with the Beings which have been falling from the sky. They look like all the illustrations commonly seen in religious tracts and secular paintings but they never survive their falls and so nothing is known about their origins or motivations in travelling to Earth.
Her father spends all his time plotting the destination of the next fall and so Jaya and her sister Rani find themselves in a down-at-heel flat which is the only accommodation available in Festival Edinburgh. When Jaya, out walking alone, witnesses the only fall which a Being survives, she knows she must think fast to hide and thus protect her from the thousands of unscrupulous people who seek to exploit the creatures for money or as specimens for use in medical research.
She enlists the support of Allie and Calum, sister and brother who she sees protesting against the exploitation of the Beings and they find a safe refuge in a disused University hall where Teacake-so named because Tunnocks rapidly become the staple of her sweet-toothed diet-can exercise her wings, one of which has been damaged and which they are determined to repair. So far, so whimsical. However, this tender, tense and thought-provoking novel is far more than a foray into fairy stories. Instead it explores the nature of extremism-for example, a cult calling themselves The Standing Fallen denounce the evils of Man and cite the Beings as harbingers of God’s wrath-of prejudice and of greed.
Cameron examines the nature of grief, too-Jaya’s guilt that her mother died as a result of a freak accident whist walking with her, Cameron’s that he is healthy but his beloved sister suffers from cystic fibrosis, Jaya’s father because he neglected his daughters when they needed him most, thinking that he could get answers about the afterlife and his dead wife from the mysterious Beings which are falling from the sky. The skilful creation of characters is another strength of this gem of a book. The readers’ sympathies are engaged with Teacake from the beginning-all the more remarkably because she speaks only her own, musical, lyrical language. Cameron gives her an uncanny ability to mimic all she hears on the radio and this-amusing and innocent-is combined with her intuition into the feelings of those around her.
This is a must-read novel – it reminds us of our strengths and failings and demonstrates that help for even the most unsettling of life-events is never very far away.