Sign by Colin Dray
‘SIGN’ by Colin Dray
Eleven year old Sam has just lost his ability to speak due to an operation for cancer, living in Sydney with his mother, sister Katie and his father’s sister, Aunt Dettie, who are there for him each step of the way, but crucially without his father who has abandoned the family to live in Perth.
The family rely on chain smoking Aunt Dettie to help through the marriage breakup and Sam’s illness – she cooks, picks up the kids from school and is there for a chat and a cuppa when Sam’s mum needs one. However when Sam’s mum begins to date again Aunt Dettie becomes disturbed and reacts in an extreme manner, packing up Sam and Katie, and begins to drive them across Australia under the guise of reuniting the whole family in Perth. Aunt Dettie’s behaviour becomes erratic and dangerous and the children soon realise that their trusted aunt is no longer to be trusted. They are trapped in a vehicle driving ever more dangerously across the desert of Australia towards a bushfire. Along the way they pick up British backpacker.
This story will keep you reading from the first page as through Sam we learn what it means to have no voice – and that doesn’t always have to do with sound. Family dynamics, trust, the impact of severe illness but mostly communication are all dealt with in a way that immediately helps you to relate to each person’s situation.
Dray also beautifully illustrates the harsh, brutal and unforgiving Australian outback as the children encounter the desolation, heat and isolation of their situation.
Sam’s voice is captured in such a way that it is easy to remember how it is to be eleven yeas old and the way we trusted and viewed things, but also acknowledging the unfortunate advanced maturity that comes to a child who experiences serious illness and subsequent disability, and what being different from your friends really means.
Succinct, emotional and economical but effective writing makes this a fabulous ‘weekend’ read.
Review by Lisa Lowcock @ Great Escape Books