The Shark Caller

Zilla Bethell

Usborne Books – Published 4th February 2021

I finished The Shark Caller on New Year's Day and only hours into 2021, I think I may have found one of my favourite books of the year!
Atmospheric, captivating and deeply moving, The Shark Caller is difficult to put down once started and difficult to forget once finished - it's once of those stories that will stay with me for a long time.
Between the pages I've played on the beaches of Papau New Guinea, swum in the clear blue waters and dived to the deepest depths of my heart. The vivid descriptions of island life and the use of Papaun pidgin English awaken the senses and transport the reader across the globe and invite them to glimpse a simpler way of being.

Blue Wing lives with her Waspapi, Siringen - a person who looks after you when you have no parents or other family members to care for you. Siringen is the village's last Shark Caller and Blue Wing longs for him to pass this responsibility onto her. However. since a rogue shark, 'Xok' took her parents in a devastating attack, Siringen knows she will stop at nothing to avenge their deaths. But perhaps this isn't the only reason why he cannot entrust this ancient craft to her...

Blue Wing is used to her own company, the other children in the village don't pay any attention to her and since her parents deaths, Siringen is the only person she spends any time with. But when an American Professor and his spoilt, obnoxious daughter arrive on the island, all that is set to change. The village chief 'The Bigman' Lungadak orders Siringen to be their guide and help the professor with his research into the coral reefs that surround the island's waters. He houses the visitors in Blue Wing's old hut, where she lived with her mother and father which she finds incredibly painful and instantly harbours resentment for the girl - Maple.
By the Bigman's orders, Blue Wing is forced to spend time with the Maple, with whom she has nothing with common with and becomes increasingly frustrated by the girl's precocious and selfish ways. But after Siringen's wise words, Blue Wing learns to listen with her heart and she discovers the heavy burden of sadness Maple is carrying. United by grief, the girls forge a wonderful friendship as they each struggle to let go of the guilt they feel in relation to the deaths of their loved-ones. Helped by Chimera, a local woman and spirit guide, exiled from the village for her powers, they search to find peace and acceptance - but how will this journey end for the girls? Will they finally forgive themselves?
So cleverly written with a huge turning point I did not see coming at all, the moment when all the pieces of the jigsaw fitted and the plot came together was just breath-taking! And the ending... an ending so moving, it gives me goosebumps and the biggest lump in my throat just thinking about it. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time - for 'the long now' as they say in Papaun
With thanks to Netgalley and Usborne Books for allowing me to read an early e-copy of the book in advance of publication.

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