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WINNER OF THE FINCH MEMOIR PRIZE 2014
I thought I knew how hard it would be. What I didn’t know was that it would test me to the inner core. This desert with its rolling dune fields is an unforgiving land that relentlessly destroys even its own ancient beauty. It is a place where, compared to the age of the landscape, a single life means less than a grain of sand. I could not have known that the biggest challenge I would face would not be from the piercing sun, not from the unforgiving dust, not even from the aching loneliness of isolation, but from the treachery of my own self.
When Karen and her partner Al set forth from the cold mountains of Tasmania to the 45-plus degree heat of central Australia to transform a cattle station into a conservation reserve, they were ready to embrace the beauty of the land and throw themselves into the task of protecting native plants and animals. They thought they had all the skills necessary to beat the heat, the dust and their isolation from society. However, when Karen became unexpectedly pregnant, their lives were turned upside down. Suddenly their biggest danger was not their exposure to the harsh elements but to the deepest fears that resided within themselves…
A beautifully written and evocative hymn to the Australian landscape and to the strength that lies within us all.
Karen Harrland has packed bananas in northern Queensland, studied Environmental Management at University, made djembe drums in Africa, staked road kill wombats to the ground for Tassie Devils to eat in Tasmania and helped wayward youth learn how to plant trees. Along with her partner Al she has also managed half-a-million acres of conservation land in Australia’s Simpson Desert. Currently they live in their self-built home with their three children in Tasmania, where Karen is a garden teacher at a primary school teaching children how to respect the earth and each other, and to enjoy and grow good food. Karen also writes obsessively and passionately, any chance she gets.