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The Australia Stories: A Novel Paperback – April 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage; First Edition, First Printing edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931561281
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931561280
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,015,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pierce uses a family's intriguing history to produce a thoughtful, evocative portrait of Australia in this compelling first novel consisting of a collection of semi-autobiographical interlocking short stories. The narrator is a young American named Sam Browne, who returns to Australia, his mother's homeland, where he spent a year of his youth. His mysterious grandmother died alone in the Blue Mountains; years later, Sam's mother is to repeat her own mother's history. Sam pays tribute to both: "women who... have hearts too tender to absorb the loss inevitable in this life." Ranging back and forth in time, the stories begin with "Coachman's Paddock," set in 1979, which flashes back to Sam's first crush, in seventh grade, on his beautiful classmate, Kelly Richardson. Later on, Kelly and Sam spend a summer courting while Sam's mother dates Kelly's father. "Smoke" is a touching tale about Sam's failing marriage to Taylor, a driven, yuppie accountant, while "The Letter" brings Sam's grandmother back into the picture when he and Taylor discover one of her old manuscript collections of essays. In the graceful final story, Sam's girlfriend, Jolene, helps Sam reconcile himself with his past when she shares with him some strange dreams she has about his grandmother. Sam finally understands his relationship to his grandmother-"we were both lost and unsure of ourselves; we were looking for love to save us..."-and is able to reverse the family pattern. Pierce's ability to offer a fresh, compelling take on Australia is impressive and noteworthy. Written in clean, understated prose, his debut has plenty of depth and staying power.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

When Sam Browne arrived in Australia to spend a year with his newly divorced mother, he was startled by the vision of her familiar figure against the foreign landscape. She was not the woman who had mothered him in California, but someone born anew, with feet firmly rooted in the soil of her birthplace. Australia had already claimed the life of Sam's grandmother, a tour guide who disappeared into the outback, leaving behind a legacy of detailed journals for the world to behold. Now his mother was to follow in his grandmother's footsteps, meticulously organizing and reading the onion-skin journals in the hope of understanding the future through the past. After reaching adulthood in the U.S., Sam soon finds that the same matriarchal cord stretches through his being, and he feels himself drawn toward the Australian countryside. With the weathered journals in hand, he begins the journey back to Australia where the dreams of the women in his family lay buried. Beautiful in its sentimental simplicity. Elsa Gaztambide
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Todd James Pierce lives in a town called Orcutt, California, which is in the northern portion of Santa Barbara County. He is the author of four books, most recently Newsworld, which won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was a finalist for the John Gardner Book Award and the Paterson Prize. His novel, The Australia Stories (also published as A Woman of Stone) is regularly taught in high school and college literature classes. His work has been published in over 80 magazines and literary journals, including The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, North American Review, Shenandoah, The Sun, and Willow Springs. Recently he has finished a book-length manuscript, called The Artificial Matterhorn, which tells the story of the men and women who built the first wave of American theme parks. He is presently at work on a novel set in 1950's Hollywood and Burbank.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Patrick J. Murphy on April 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book, a strange, startling combination of human warmth, passion, local color, wisdom and humor. There is, of course, the Australian setting, new (at least to me) and filled with color and beauty, but it is the people one will remember best, the Uncle, the wives, the mother and grandmother, but mostly the narrator, who guides us through it all and reveals himself as troubled but caring, warm and distant simultaneously, funny and perceptive, and mostly wise without being insufferable. This a really good book, a rare accomplishment.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David G. W. Scott on April 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Todd James Pierce's novel The Australia Stories opens your heart to not one, but two continent's worth of yearning and sadness. This is a book that is as patient and vivid as a bushwalk. Pierce's characters leave the page and enter your world, then invite you back to their world with them. Pierce masters the story, and then steps from behind the storytelling veil in the final section to create a dramatic tension, as well as increased intimacy. A beautiful story unfolds, even as it aches to read it, word after perfect word.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazing read. Not only does the author build upon his knowledge of the Australian landscape and history, but he engages us with a journey story about familial love and longing. This is a must-read for lovers of all things Australia. Mr. Pierce is a gifted writer with a large appetitite for gorgeous language and rivetting story-telling. I look forward to his next book. Highly recommend it.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
The mythology of Australia is central to this novel. Both Sam Browne's grandmother and mother have vanished into the wilds of the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, his grandmother to myth and his mother in search of her own mother's memory. These disappearances (his mother's body is found, his grandmother's never found) have a profound influence on Sam as he remembers the year he spent with his mother in Australia before she was lost forever.
Pierce combines the unfathomable territory of memory with myth-saturated Australia, where the Aboriginal population has produced such ethereal tales from spectacular geography. Pierce also adds a strong feminist content to Sam's identification with his maternal relatives. His mother has had a positive effect on the young boy and the grandmother's journals offer him even more understanding of their unique bond with the land.
After returning to the United States, Sam finishes school, marries and divorces. Yet he remains fascinated by the stories of his mother and grandmother. Sam is able to recover most of his grandmother's original documents and spends his time pouring over their contents. His grandmother's voice speaks to him over the years, seducing him back into the land of myth that plays such an important role in his life. He cannot help but heed the siren call of his mother's native country.
In The Australia Stories, Todd James Pierce perfectly captures female sensitivities and the power of familial ties, reading Sam's mother's emotions with acuity in that short year spent with her in Katoomba, before returning to California. While the maturing Sam Browne feels Australia in the marrow of his bones, the lives of his mother and grandmother are ever more an intrinsic element of his spirit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Chasan on March 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This novel brought back strong memories of Australia two years after my visit there, coming from New England. I found myself swept away by Pierce's description of the geography, plants and buildings, the covered porch in front of the house, the native plants competing with those imported by Europeans. His description of the grandmother's journey into aborigine habit and culture, so deeply intertwined with its rugged surroundings, and the dreaming, so difficult to understand, and yet so very believable, make this book an atmospheric delight.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on May 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Pierce, whose short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals, shapes his first novel as a series of interlocking stories, each exploring different forms of love and loss, from familial to puppy love to the blood's connection to place. The 30-year-old narrator, Sam Browne, spent a year in Australia as a boy, living with his mother who had left his American father to return to her native land. Here he fell in love for the first time, an experience he deftly describes, remembering how, "I felt older, as though my presence filled more of the world than it had just that morning." From his adult perspective he recalls how it distanced him from his mother, "neither of us understanding we had arrived at a crossroads, a place where our paths would slowly move apart, mine leading more toward school and women, hers bringing her more deeply into the country she again called home."
As Sam enjoys the first pangs of love, his mother turns to the past, attempting to understand her own mother through her unpublished writings, essays on life and nature she wrote in the years she lived alone in Australia's Blue Mountains after leaving her husband, a man who had always yearned for England. It was only after his grandmother's death - a "walkabout" into the mountains from which she never returned - that Sam's mother returns to Australia and assembles her mother's papers for publication, becoming so absorbed and intrigued that she follows - too literally - in her mother's footsteps.
Sam's short marriage disintegrates painfully and inevitably. He too, immerses himself in his grandmother's writings, plumbing his own Australian roots as, more vulnerable, but wiser, he grows into a new love, finds new hope.
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