Juno and Hannah, by Beryl Fletcher.
Juno and Hannah, by Beryl Fletcher. Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex, 2013
A mysterious novella about adolescent sisters in the New Zealand bush trying to find a way to survive.
Juno and Hannah are adolescent girls growing up in a repressive and isolated community of Christian fundamentalists. When Hannah learns that Juno is about to be placed in an orphanage or mental hospital, they run away into the bush. The people who find them could be friends or enemies, and yet Hannah must make the right choices for herself and her sister. Slowly both Hannah and readers learn about the girls’ past.
Beryl Fletcher is a New Zealander of European descent, as are her characters. She writes with loving care about the landscape of her country, the changing weather, and the vegetation. She also deals sensitively with Juno, considered by others to be “mentally defective,” and her sister who is committed to her well-being but often frustrated by her behavior. Few authors dare to depict such characters, but Fletcher treats the abnormality of their situation straightforwardly.
As one reviewer said, this is a “high gothic bush yarn.” Not all readers will enjoy it, but others will find it a true gem. Hannah’s love for her sister, Juno’s deep vulnerability, and the need to go forward without understanding one’s circumstances touch us all. Spinifex has again published a novel that probes into the realities that women live.
I strongly recommend Juno and Hannah to readers who like their fiction to be mysterious and emotional and to those willing to face the problems of the vulnerable in our midst.
Spinifex provided me a review copy of this novella.