The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard
Published February 1, 2016 by Allen & Unwin
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Alice Nightingale writes about how it is to have perfect thoughts that come out in slow, slurred speech. She imagines herself stepping into clear midair with wings made of words and feathers.Manny james runs at night, trying to escape memories of his past. He sees Alice on the roof of her river-house, looking like a figurehead on a ship sailing through the stars. He has a poem in his pocket and he knows the words by heart. He is sure that girl has written them.Alice longs to be everything a fifteen-year-old girl can be. And when she sees the running boy she is anchored to the earth by her desire to see him again.
Fifteen year old Alice Nightingale lives with her younger brother, Joey, and grandmother. Her mother left them, her father is dead, and her grandfather is in jail. A horrific event occurred when Alice was twelve, and sometimes she thinks she'll forever be stuck as the girl she was then, but she knows she's ready to become more than what people expect of her. She stays home now, something the family has to hide from the town, because school is too noisy and she finds it hard to speak, though she has no trouble writing. When a new boy in town notices her, Alice finds the first person outside the family that she feels she can trust.
The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard is a beautifully written and captivating story of a young girl, but also her family, and the life of an adopted refugee. Getting to know Alice was slow going for me, at first I found her words hard to follow, I had to get used to the cadence of her writing, often re-reading sentences. But soon her words put me into a trance and I was completely mesmerised by her life - and when I say trance I mean it, I was reading on the train and normally I look up at each station, but this time I was so absorbed I almost missed my stop, and when I got off and took my first step up the staircase, I fell because I was still thinking about Alice, and not about making my feet move.
Despite the misfortune scattered throughout Alice's life, she is a kind, caring, loyal girl. She worries over her grandmother's health and dotes on Joey, who is a wonderful and protective brother. She escapes into her writing, often taking inspiration from the books she has at home, or the nature that surrounds their hideaway house.
Manny's story was just as heartbreaking and moving as Alice's. He's come to Australia from Sierra Leone and is haunted by the war that took his family, an event he was forced to witness. He's been taken in by Laura and Bull, and he couldn't have ended up with better adoptive parents. He finds himself smitten with Alice's poems that he finds around town, they give him something beautiful to think about, instead of his past.
The mystery of what happened to Alice is woven into this story, slowly revealed as the plot progresses, finally coming to a head with a powerful scene that I wasn't expecting but that moved me to tears. I haven't cried that hard while reading since Code Name Verity.
I know that some readers will be put off by knowing this is a sad story but I urge them to read it anyway, because it's also a beautiful story, and sometimes you can't have one without the other.
I love the design of this beautiful cover and it was good inspiration for some nail art.
I started with Orly La Playa and used acrylic paint for the rest.