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Message Stick Paperback – December 26, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Sun Dogs Creations (December 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982239904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982239902
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,131,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"One of the best novels in ten years."
-Hackney Literary Awards Committee

"Initiates Cunningham into the ranks of respected authors such as Michael Ondaatje and Sarah Gruen."
-Dena Harris, internationally published author of Who Moved My Mouse?
"A brilliant flow of friendship, ancient wisdom, sorcery and retribution. This is not an uptown homicide but one inked with shamanic intrigue and a spiritual battle of souls."
-Dale Stacy, Diamond in the Rough
"Characters so real and memorable you won't put this book down. One of the best stories ever to lie in our laps."
-Pamela King Cable, Televenge

"Demonstrates a mastery of psychological introspection and an uncanny feel for the spirit of place. The novel hit us all very hard."
-James Jones Literary Society

"From the beginningit's obvious we are in the hands of an exceptional writer and master storyteller. Insight into the characters, skill with language, and careful plotting are brought together in a package that explores the soul of her characters as well as the soul of a nation and its people. Cunningham has crafted a truly special book."
-Edmund R. Schubert, award-winning author Dreaming Creek

"If you enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's series you'll enjoy this biracial Aborigine's exploration of the land, his inner feelings and who he truly is in this engaging story of Australia today."
-Patricia Canterbury, Tanner Sullivan Mysteries

From the Author

I spent six months camping alone in the Australian outback. Two weeks before I boarded the plane, I had a vision of my own corpse lying beneath a lone tree in the red desert.
I went anyway. I had to. The life I had been leading was killing me. I was working a corporate job I hated, had been bucking for a promotion for over a year to no avail, and wasn't pursuing my true place in the world. I knew that even if I died in the outback, I would have done something meaningful in those last short months.
After purchasing a twenty-year-old Ford sedan, I set off. For months I traveled territory so rough I had to drive down the middle of the two lane road. I chewed through five tires, carried spare gasoline, and stored a two-week supply of food and water in the trunk. Every night I pulled off into some lonely patch of desert, cooked over an open fire, and slept under the stars.
One day I was traveling on a raised roadbed. There are no speed limits on the outback roads and was doing about 75. One of the tires blew. The car was thrown off the raised road and literally bounced into the desert. I could not steer or brake. As I waited for the car to slow itself down, a single tree blocked my path. It was that same tree I'd seen in my vision.
I sank into the seat. I can still feel the metal springs in the seat cushion as the car bounced again. I sank down, knowing the seatbelt would not protect me.
Then I straightened up. I decided that this was not what I wanted. I looked at the roadway. It was further away than the tree. Yet the moment I thought, That's where I want to be, the car was back on the road.
The entire experience in the outback changed me forever. Shortly after returning to the US, I left that deadly corporate job and began my career as an author. I learned that I should always make choices based on what's best for myself. I know that I have the power to survive anything...anything. 
After returning to the U.S., I cashed in my 401K and started writing. This novel is one of the first things to come from that time and those lessons.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
Laine Cunningham writes this story perfectly.
Ms. Cunningham's characters are fleshed out so well that you feel like they're people you personally know.
J. Hoffman...Scribe
From page one it pulls you in and keeps you wanting more.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aprilrain on January 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Message Stick is a supernatural adventure set in the outback. Gabe, a multiracial man in search of his childhood friend runs afoul an aboriginal Shaman/Criminal. Dana not only uses his black magic to get his way and even kill but has no problem poaching and raiding gravesites for money. When Gabe's investigation leads him toward Dana's grisley trail, the shaman has no qualms about getting Gabe out of his way. This story confronts a lot of the racial tension in Australia, an issue the main character actually deals with in himself. While Dana despises anyone with pale skin and those that have turned away from their heritage, Gabe comes to find out about a side of himself that never thought to explore. This story is great with its thrilling mystery and supernatural additives. A great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Harshaw on January 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Laine Cunningham's 'Message Stick' is a message in a bottle from a continent's past. Australia's 'Lost Generation' are the children taken from their Aboriginal families by the government and raised by white families, and 'Message Stick' tells the story of one child's journey to reclaim his past. Bowed by middle age, but not broken, protagonist Gabriel Branch travels deep into the interior of the Red Desert, encountering Dana, a nihilistic rogue Shaman with a broken moral compass, while searching for his lost childhood friend. This is a story about innocence lost, aboriginal trauma, and the history of an entire nation. If you're a fan of the Australian continent, its people, and their varied stories, you're sure to enjoy this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dena Harris on July 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read this book in two days. It's one of those stories that sinks its hooks into you and won't let go. LOVED the descriptions of the Outback and really felt like I was there. Creepy shaman and a strong ending make this a book well worth reading! I'd say it's great for summer reading or a plane ride or anywhere where you want to keep your mind engaged in a good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Donna Coomer on February 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
You may not currently be familiar with Laine Cunningham, but that's about to be remedied. With the Message Stick she is going to jump front and center on the best-seller's lists. So, don't wait, get your copy now.

Cunningham's foray onto the continent of Australia awhile back, has come full circle with the Message Stick. Her literary gift of story telling becomes obvious almost immediately. Like yarn unraveling, she pulls you into the web she weaves. Her story unfolds like "hours heaped up unnoticed".

Her characters are as colorful and resourceful as the continent she lays out before her readers. Close your eyes and imagine the Dreamtime of the native Australians or look up, where "the stars were brilliant, like drops of water on his lashes". Allowing your self the luxury, of becoming the breeze, that blows her characters during the story's search, is just one way to experience her writing.

More likely though, you will long as I did to picture it on the big screen. Read it and relish it. Then picture what a masterful cinematographer could do with those precious drops of water and Cunningham's Dreamtime-like descriptions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E A Fow on January 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Message Stick is an audacious and timely novel. It begins with a white Australian tracking an Aboriginal elder and his rough-neck white sidekick who are stealing and trading in Aboriginal antiquities. It’s an intriguing premise, which quickly drew me in, and once in, the author Laine Cunningham did not let go! Ian, it turns out, is not the hero of this story; his friend Gabe is. Gabe is a middle aged member of the Stolen Generation. On the quest to find out what has happened to his friend, he is drawn into the red desert of the Australian interior, and closer and closer to the Aboriginal life that was denied him when he was stolen as a child and assimilated into white society by the racist government policy of the time. Here, his entanglement with the Dreamtime, a shaman with his own agenda (none of which fits with Eurocentric laws or ways), and his commitment to find the truth, whatever it takes, leads to a novel rich in mystery, culture, and a questioning of identity. It was terrific to read a book with complex Aborigine characters, rather than the Westernized fantasy version we often see, and I really admire how Cunningham understands the genetic attachment to landscape and environment, and how she weaves the past and present together – fitting for a book exploring Aboriginal ideas, where the continuum is eternal. It’s a terrific book – a great mix of harrowing adventure, myth, culture, and real mystery, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is willing to venture somewhere that might deeply unsettle them in a way that has nothing to do with gore or fake thrills.
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Format: Paperback
This level of detail and feeling of the Outback could only come from someone who was deeply immersed in it. Laine Cunningham was for six months and when that happens you get a different kind of richness in story and image that outlasts and peeks above the standard novel. This account of one man’s search for another, forgotten roots, and experiences with the unknown, is timely, in that the conditions are ripe for it to unfold all around this globe. That said, the author’s ability to juxtapose normally unrelated things is beautiful, and the way she jumps from storyline to storyline while changing the style of narration depending on the character at hand is nimble and smooth. The different points of view—many even in the same scene—serve to explore the details in interactions, often using subtle twists that are hard to overlook, with completely different findings and lessons based on who’s eyes are looking. The author also does wonders in making the inanimate dance.

Cunningham keeps excellent pace and is steady throughout most of the book, touching on and quickly leaving the smaller elements but making sure to bask in those that truly develop the story. One second you’ll be picturing the road or spur humming by the vehicle and the next you’ll time travel to swatting birds off the wreckage. She sneaks you into action, keeping it all highly gripping. It’s not until Skin Name—225 pages into the book—that a slight dip in style and economy is noticed, but even so it remains plenty engaging.

Highlights would be: accurate locations and directions and following the battle from point to point, learning the nuances and prevalence of areas still blanketed by racism, the inner workings of the shaman’s actions opposite those who do not believe, and the reality that money and the system that comes with it still have power over those who live by the land. Cunningham has shaped a magnificent portrait in her debut and offers excitement for the works that follow.
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More About the Author

Laine's work has won multiple national awards, including the Hackney Literary Award for $5,000 and the James Jones Literary Society fellowship for $6,000. In past years, the Hackney Award was received by Horton Foote and William Styron, placing Laine in the ranks of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors.

Laine has received additional fellowships totaling $6,250 and residency slots from the Jerome Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Mills Cultural Center, Wildacres Center for the Humanities, the ecumenical Blowing Rock Convention Center, and regional arts councils in different states.

For seven years she chaired the advisory board for The Blotter Literary Magazine.

Her media engagements as an author and a publishing consultant include First for Women, CNN's Money,,, Media Bistro, dozens of regional papers including Awareness in Southern California, The Sydney Morning Herald, Die Presse (Austria's largest daily newspaper), and Insight (Australia's largest spiritual magazine).

For twenty years she has worked as a publishing consultant. Through her company, Writer's Resource, she helps fiction and nonfiction authors develop, write, revise and pitch their books to agents and publishers. In addition to ghostwriting, rewriting and editing services, she provides in-depth assistance with query letters and book proposals. Her marketing plans have resulted in Amazon bestseller status, moved over 1,000 copies of a book in 30 days, and provides self-published authors access to national bestseller lists like the New York Times and USA Today's.

Her opinion has been sought by national and international media on issues ranging from The Oprah Effect to the end of the Harry Potter series and Sarah Palin's ghostwriter. She conducts writing and marketing sessions for authors through a variety of programs. She has presented for The Loft, the nation's largest independent literary center; the National Writers Union; The Writer's Workshop in Asheville, NC; the North Carolina Writer's Network; regional writers' conferences; elementary and high schools; and independent freelance organizations.

Her spiritual and cultural programs have been booked by the City of Sacramento, CA, Guilford College, NC, First Woman Foundation at White Earth Reservation, ND, Cherokee Full Circle in NC, Oak Park Multicultural Festival in CA, regional libraries and conferences, interfaith churches, independent spiritual groups, and elementary and high schools in several states.

All of Laine's works utilize the core components of thrillers while keeping a strong focus on the elements that appeal to women. Their opening pace is strong enough to propel readers into the story while providing the character development that links readers to characters...and characters to each other. In Message Stick, a biracial Australian Aborigine is stalked across the outback by the shaman who killed his friend. The Hackney Literary Award committee called Message Stick "one of the best novels in ten years."

Laine created a collection of essays that tie into traditional Aboriginal stories. Seven Sisters: Spiritual Messages from Aboriginal Australia teaches readers that the dreaming is a timeless energy that can address modern issues with love and relationships, friendship and community, illness and joy.

Her second novel, He Drinks Poison, pits FBI agent Priya Conlin-Kumar against a serial rapist and a serial killer working the same city. Visions from The Ramayana and a passionate love relationship provide her with the power of the goddess Kali. The justice Priya metes out satisfies both the laws of man and spiritual laws.

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