All families have their stories, their secrets. Todd James Pierce is no exception. The Australia Stories weaves the mystery of main character, Sam Browne's family with Pierce's very own family mystery. Throughout the book the line between Browne's fiction and Pierce's fact remains perpetually blurred which keeps the reader guessing.
The book is a multi-generational struggle with identity. His grandmother, who had once dreamed of returning to the England of her ancestors, gradually develops a love and sense of home for her own native Australia. After divorcing Browne's grandfather and becoming a guide on nature trails into the outback, Browne's grandmother walks into the desert never to be seen or heard from again.
Browne's mother, in a perpetual struggle to make some semblance of a connection with her mother; a mother who had always been a stranger to her; ends up following in her mother's footsteps, disappearing into the outback-- her decaying body found a few days later.
The book shifts from flashbacks to Browne's mother, his grandmother, to his own adolescence, and the failure of his first marriage as Browne tries to solve the mysteries of both his mother and grandmother and develop some sense of his own identity.
Part of the charm of this book is how deeply personal it feels. Throughout the book I felt as if Pierce were giving a glimpse of his own deep thoughts in the guise of Browne. I felt all of the characters easily relatable and felt myself connecting with them and understanding them on a level much deeper than I'm accustomed to.
This book would be an excellent addition to any middle or high school curriculum. We all go through that awkward phase where we're trying to figure out who we are. The Australia Stories is an excellent chronicle of that awkward search of personal discovery.