Metal Fish, Falling Snow, by Cath Moore, has been given the Prime Minister’s Award (2021) for Young adult literature. It is a poignant, beautifully-written debut novel, which touched me deeply.
A so-called ‘young adult’ novel, it kept me, an old woman, reading avidly from start to finish. Not only that, several times I went back to reread a particularly moving passage or to savour the language.The novel was earlier awarded the 2021 Victorian Premier’s YA Literary Award. and listed for the 2021 Stella Prize.
A little about Cath Moore
Born in Guyana (South America) and brought up in Australia, Dr Cath Moore’s achievements include freelance writing, teaching and entertaining. Her heritage is Irish/Afro-Caribbean. She lives in Melbourne.
Metal Fish, Falling Snow can be described as an Own Voices story. The term refers to a story written by a person from a marginalised group who writes from their own unique perspective. Their point of view obviously differs from that of a character from an underrepresented group written by someone from an outsider.
The plot of Metal Fish, Falling Snow
The novel begins soon after the freak accidental death of fourteen-year-old Dylan’s mother. Her mother’s grieving boyfriend, Pat, cooks breakfast for the two of them before they set off on a road trip. Pat plans to take Dylan to the family she has never met on the other side of Australia. He does not tell her where they are going.
The journey is long and tedious. Pat, a beer salesman, knows the route well. Dylan and Pat grieve together for the woman they loved deeply. Through a series of mishaps and accidents along the way, the trip forces them to rely on each other. They form a close, caring bond.
But the closeness does not last. Dylan feels betrayed when she finds she will be left with her paternal grandfather, William. Her black abusive father had abandoned Dylan’s mother and Dylan when she was a small child. William tries to make amends.
Left alone with the family she does not know, Dylan deals with her grief, identity and blackness. She befriends a young, mute child. Slowly, she begins to feel at home. A massive storm at the climax of the novel enables Dylan to see she belongs with her family.
Why I loved Metal Fish, Falling Snow
This enthralling book presents much to admire and to enjoy. Below are some highlights.
Point of view
The protagonist and the narrator share the same voice in the first person central point of view. This allows the reader to experience fully Dylan’s world and that of the story. It creates a sense of familiarity for the reader.
In Metal Fish, Falling Snow, the reader shares in Dylan’s rich inner life and extensive imagination. Dylan also projects into the minds of other characters, yet in Cath Moore’s skillful hands, this seems appropriate.
Lyrical language provides a rich sensual experience as poetic words and flights of fancy create the layers and rhythms of the story. Water and the hoatzin bird provide extended metaphors as do journeys, real and imagined. Other metaphors occur regularly.
The characters in this novel develop fully through dialogue, descriptions and points of view. Their flaws and strengths balance. They become real and rounded. Even minor characters take on lives of their own.
Cath Moore does not shy away from large themes. Instead, she weaves them together with assurance. Themes in Metal Fish, Falling Snow include skin colour; death, loss and grieving; guilt; domestic violence; family relationships and abandonment.
Metal Fish, Falling Snow has a great deal to offer readers of all ages. It handles topics such as grief and loss, family disruption and the formation of identity with great sensitivity and explores what it might mean to be an outsider in a country like Australia. Highly recommended for book clubs and class rooms.
Below are my reviews of three more Own Voices stories.
Australian Women Writers Challenge 2021
This review is part of my commitment to the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2021.