As Stars Fall is the first novel of Victorian writer Christie Nieman, a captivating and poignant story of loss as experienced by four very different characters.
Weighing in at only 300 pages As Stars Fall should have been quite a quick read but with everything going on in my life I find that my reading is really suffering so this took me weeks to read, which is no reflection on the book at all. I flew through sections when I could sit and devote some time to it though those times were rather rare.
As Stars Fall took a little more concentration than a lot of other books because of the nature of the story but Nieman wove the lives of her characters together beautifully, be they person or wildlife.
The story begins with a devastating bush fire in which a woman loses her life and a Bush-Stone Curlew loses her children but manages to escape unscathed. Both the woman and the curlew are integral to the story as it unfolds.
Robin Roberts is less than impressed at having to live in the city and start at a new school, desperately missing her country home and all the native birds she loves to study. She meets Delia on her first day and the two slowly fall into a wary friendship, not yet understanding the ties that bind them.
Delia, her older brother Seth and their father are trying to navigate life after the loss of their wife and mother; each have very different coping mechanisms, none of which are very successful. Loss affects everyone, and every family differently. Sometimes a family pulls together and bonds are strengthened, sometimes though things work the opposite way and those left behind are left drifting in the sea of despair on their own and that is what’s happening with Delia’s family.
Delia’s dad is trying to drown his sorrows at the bottom of a bottle, Seth has given up school and given up on everything as the anger eats away at him. His dabbling in drugs takes a fast downward spiral when smoking weed turns to smoking weed laced with heavier drugs. Seth drifts further and further from the sister who desperately needs him, as he sinks into an altered reality that leaves us questioning whether it’s just the drugs.
Delia seems to have it all together but on the inside she is suffering, trying to hold it all together is winding her up tight. She’s still having nightmares and Seth is becoming less reliable at helping her through them. She throws herself into her mums work to try to find answers to the perplexing question of a rare bird out of its natural habitat.
As Stars Fall is captivating, heartbreaking and suspenseful as it artfully weaves the stories of these three teens with the plight of the endangered Bush-Stone Curlew.
Nieman explores the issues facing the birds with as much sensitivity as that of the teens; addressing the threats to their habitat and survival while also working towards a solution for a growth in their numbers.
The story was told from different points of view, so we were able to get into the heads of Robin, Delia and Seth and really get a handle on everything that connected them.
As Stars Fall is unique in both it’s storytelling and its characterisation, an engaging read that will keep you guessing.
I look forward to seeing where Nieman’s career will take her.