Emily Brewin has captured the past with elegance and a rare understanding, when to be an unwed mother was to become a pariah of society, shunned by all. She has also captured the vibrancy of the protest movement, the changing of the culture of Australia during the years the Vietnam War raged, wrapping the story around that of so many young girls who gave birth to children who were removed forcibly or otherwise, for adoption.
Set against a backdrop of small town country life and the Vietnam War during the 1960’s, May Callaghan makes a fatal mistake, as least as far as her parents, mainly her mother is concerned. She becomes pregnant, out of wedlock, a sin in the eyes of society and the church.
Sam has left town, and his sometimes girlfriend May, without thought for the consequences of a one night stand at the school dance, looking for a different future to that found in the town they have grown up in. He is also keen to enrol and fight in Vietnam.
The Callaghan family have faced their share of trouble with May’s father suffering dreadfully the effects of being a soldier in World War II with the loss of an unborn child which saw May’s mother turn into a devout catholic, placing the dictates of the church before all else.
When May revels she is pregnant to Sister Theresa she is forced to leave school. When she is confronted by her parents, the horror and lack of understanding from her mother makes her decide to go to Melbourne, to find Sam and see what can be done. She is convinced Sam will marry her and everything will be alright.
She walks into a world that is so far outside her understanding, as there is nothing in her strict catholic upbringing to even give her an insight into how different life can be, especially in a big city. Sam shares a house with Clancy, an indigenous university student and a wild Bohemian, Ruby, whom, once Sam leaves for Queensland and further training, become her closest friends and allies in this strange new world.
Without any means of support she soon has to find work, decide what she is going to do about the new baby and how and when she and Sam will get married. As the days move along she finds she is becoming more and more involved in the peace movement and protest against the Vietnam War, a world that is a far away from her strict upbringing as is possible.
As May moves closer to giving birth the subject of being an unwed mother is bought clearly into the light of societies strict standards that prevalent at the time. As the days grow ever closer to the birth May has to do some serious thinking, looking at how she is going to manage once the child is born.
A beautiful story, well told, depicting a time and place we all can relate too, in a world which is forever changing.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|