The Shark Caller is a stunning and powerful story which wove its magic straight into my heart; an unforgettable tale set on the beautiful island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea; a tale of two young girls from different worlds who find a bond of sisterhood that saves them both. This is an incredibly moving story that left me in floods of tears, but it also left me filled with hope and reassurance. An absolute masterpiece that I’m already confident will be one of my top reads of 2021!
Blue Wing lives with her waspapi, Siringen, after the loss of her parents who were killed by a shark. He is the village shark caller, a role that Blue Wing is desperate to step into. Siringen refuses to train her in this magical calling as it is a traditional role passed on through the male lineage, and as he is worried that she is seeking the role for the wrong reason: in a desperate need to assuage her anger and avenge the death of her parents by killing the shark who took them from her. Siringen is wise, honest and clever and perhaps knows what is best for Blue Wing more than she does herself, even if she is not willing to accept this.
Both Blue Wing and Siringen have a wonderful affinity with the world they live in, respecting the natural environment and reluctant to let the modern world encroach on their idyll. They want to keep the traditions of their people alive, despite the changing times. However, change is forced upon them by the village chief who is intent on modernising the island and opening it up to the outside world. He has demanded that Siringen look after visitors to the island: an American professor who has come to study the coral and his daughter, Maple.
It is no surprise that Blue Wing’s first meeting with Maple is difficult and that friendship does not come easily to the girls who do not seem, at first, to have anything in common. This story doesn’t shy away from the complexity of emotions that are experienced by both girls as they suffer the pain of grief at the loss of loved ones. Theirs is not an easy path, but they learn to travel it together as their friendship and trust in each other grows, and as they learn valuable lessons relating to forgiveness and acceptance.
As the girls’ friendship develops, they find themselves caught up in a compelling mystery to uncover the secrets that Maple’s grieving father is hiding, secrets that uncover their family’s history and reveal a longing to change the past …
Some stories have the power to speak to the very core of our being and to transcend time and place; I have found a peace and solace in this story which has helped me deal with my own personal grief. I am in awe of the emotional depth of this story, of the honest and heartfelt portrayal of the relationship between these two young girls which captured my heart and, yes, broke it a little in order to heal it again. I mean, how does a writer do that to a reader? There is magic and power in storytelling and this story has been imbued with its own unique magic that makes it a truly special book, an exceptional story that deserves to be read by both children and adults alike. As an avid reader of children’s books, I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I’ve ever read: I really cannot recommend it highly enough!
Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne for an e-ARC. I have ordered a signed copy from the wonderful Rocketship Bookshop.