Beautifully written and capturing the very essence of life in Jakarta, Girl of the Southern Sea from Michelle Kadarusman follows the journey of fourteen year old Nia who longs to be able to continue on at school, but instead has to look after her little brother and help her father at the family food cart down at the train station.
Bright and intelligent, Nia’s family is poor and once the free schooling provided by the government is finished, families have to pay for their children to go on to high school. Her father has never recovered from the death of her mother when her brother Rudi was born and drinks away all the money earned at the local Arak dealer’s illegal bar.
Nia has always loved to write and create stories for her little brother; wonderful, magical stories based on the legend of the mythical Dewi Kadita Queen of the Southern Seas. Her mother always told her stories about this mythical being and Nia is continuing on as it comforts both her and her brother.
After narrowly escaping death in a bus accident Nia becomes considered as somewhat mystical; as having good-luck magic. The family fortunes begin to change, until once again something appalling happens and Nia has to face some hard facts about life. Help comes from a most unlikely source and perhaps Dewi Kadita likes the stories Nia makes up and lends a helping hand.
Crafted in the streets of Jakarta, Nia and her family and friends are bought vividly to life in this elegant and charming look at life and culture in a land known to many, but not always understood. Kardarusman has captured the vibrancy, the smell of the markets, the helpless frustration felt by many who live in the poor areas of town, their daily survival depending on the fates and an enduring sense of courage felt by many who look to better their meagre lives.
Girl of the Southern Sea is a powerful story of courage, good-luck magic, all bound by the determination and hope of being able to create a bright new future.