Red Sand Sunrise
Penguin Books Aus
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Midwife Eve Wilson barely knew her father but when he dies she decides that she owes it to him to travel to the funeral in outback Queensland and meet her stepfamily. She doesn’t expect to be so taken with both the other part of her father’s family and also, the town itself. Far west Queensland is brutal but also breathtakingly beautiful as well.
Eve’s half sister Dr Callie Wilson not only has to deal with the shock death of her father but also another personal tragedy as well. She moves back to Red Sand to spend time with her mother, the two of them providing support for each other in their shared grief. It also gives Callie a chance to meet one of her two half sisters, when Eve arrives for their father’s funeral. Eve and Callie find a common ground almost immediately and are both keen to get to know each other and develop their relationship. Eve and Callie are both given a chance to help establish the area’s first medical clinic, where both will get a chance to share their expertise and help in the day to day medical issues of their rural community.
Eve’s other sister Sienna, the one she grew up with, can’t understand why Eve would throw everything away to go and stay out in some rural backwater for six months. An obstetrician on her way up the career ladder as fast as possible, Sienna lives and works in Melbourne and has no interest in visiting Red Sand, for their father’s funeral or otherwise. Unfortunately for Sienna, Red Sand has Blanche McKay, the driving force behind the small town’s first medical clinic and she wants Sienna’s expertise. There’s a medical mystery to solve in Red Sand and Sienna finds herself sold out and heading bush in order to investigate what is going on up there.
Fate is bringing the three sisters together and giving them the chance to have what they were denied growing up – a proper family relationship. They’ll need to be there for each other and they’re going to need all the skills they have in order to not only work out what the medical mystery is but also work to save someone special when disaster wants to take them away.
I’ve never been very far west in my life. When I was 12, my parents took us to the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, which was a lot of fun (and exhausting). I think that is the furthest west in Australia I’ve ever been. I grew up on the Mid North Coast of NSW and since then have never lived much further than 10-15m from the ocean. However, this book took me into the heart of far western Queensland and I loved every bit of it!
When I pick up a rural romance, it’s ones like these that I really enjoy reading. Eve and Callie are such wonderful characters. They share a father but have different mothers – it’s a bit of a complicated family past but Fiona McArthur explains it well. Both Eve and Callie are open to getting to know each other, enthusiastic about it even. Eve’s mother has passed but Callie’s welcomes Eve to Red Sand and into their lives. A trip for her father’s funeral and to meet her other family members turns into returning to help set up the town’s first medical clinic. Birthing in rural areas can be difficult – often women have to leave at 36wks and travel to an area that has a fully equipped hospital. This leaves them away from their family for weeks at a time – it could be anything up to 7 or 8 weeks depending on when they actually birthed and how long they and their babies spend in hospital. This obviously doesn’t suit everyone, especially busy farming women who also often already have other small children. Many would appreciate being able to at least have all their check ups much closer to home and maybe even the chance to birth close too, providing they are deemed low risk.
Experiencing Eve and Callie form a friendship was such a fun process to watch. I don’t have a sister and even though Eve grew up with her other sister Sienna, the two of them aren’t particularly close. Sienna is ambitious and dedicated and I think Eve feels that Sienna seems to regard her as a bit of a mess, a poor Eve type thing. With Callie Eve is a person fully formed and the two of them are both adults, forging that adult relationship. Both Eve and Callie are so likable, they’re exactly the sort of people I’d want to be friends with myself. Especially if I lived in a small community like Red Sand. The introduction of Sienna, who is very different, was fascinating because in the first few times the reader sees her, she’s not really that likable. She is not backwards in her thoughts about Red Sand and just how much she doesn’t want to be there, either. However the more Sienna appeared, the more I liked her. She was greatly improved when she met the local police officer, a man of few words. Sienna came to realise that rural medicine wasn’t a lesser career and that skills were just important out there in the real world in everyday situations as they were in an operating theater in a big hospital. Whereas she wasn’t particularly ‘hands on’ in the past, Sienna gets the chance to give it a go more than once and she finds it’s not really so bad!
There are three heroines in this novel, so that gives us three heroes. And they are all so very wonderful! I’m a big fan of the tall, handsome and mysterious type so….Lex McKay quickly became my favourite. Or as Eve describes him, ‘a stern-faced giant’. The sparks fly early on between those two but it’s also quite an understated budding romance. Lex has some complications that he must deal with and Eve has to decide if Red Sand is for her on a more permanent basis. I loved their interactions though – actually I loved all of the interactions all of the characters had in this book. There’s so much warmth and charm here. That laid-back vibe kind of makes it all the more shocking when something terrible occurs and I was utterly immersed in that scene. As a mother, I do have a bit of an interest in delivery – sometimes I think that I should’ve done widwifery. It’s the only aspect of nursing that interests me at all but when I was applying to university, I didn’t care for babies. If I was to do a degree now, it would most likely be that. Watching Eve and Sienna work was very interesting and I was definitely keen to find out what the answer was behind the medical mystery that kept affecting pregnant women in Red Sand.
I really enjoyed every aspect of this book. It was such a wonderful read and I am so keen to get out there and track down more books by Fiona McArthur. Highly recommend this one.
Book #111 of 2014
Make sure you check out my Q&A with Fiona McArthur here
Red Sand Sunrise is book #40 read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014