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Seabirds Crying in the Harbour Dark by Catherine Cole (UWA Publishing)
In this elegant, delicately crafted collection of short stories, Catherine Cole brings a poetic sensibility to the examination of apparently unremarkable moments in ordinary lives. Bert, a widowed retiree, visits asylum seekers in detention. Debra goes to the local shopping mall on pension day to spend time with the animals in the pet shop. Elizabeth, an island-dwelling poet, is visited by her brother Dan, who does not always take the medication he needs for a mental illness.
Through the book, characters appear and reappear, lives and themes intersecting in sometimes unexpected ways. Dan has an encounter with a Somali asylum seeker while fruit picking in the Riverina. Bert and Debra run into each other at the shopping mall. Elizabeth’s friends argue about border protection over a long Sunday lunch. Through it all, the sea is a relentless presence, its impersonal rhythms marking the passage of the characters’ lives. This intelligent, understated collection offers a powerful reflection on the transience of life and the fragility of home.