Grace Beside Me

Grace Beside Me contains sensitivities such as racism, abuse and attempted sexual assault.
Grace Beside Me
Written by Sue McPherson
Contemporary, Indigenous, #LoveOZYA
Published December 2012
224 Pages
Thank you to Magabala Books
Add to Goodreads
★★★★☆
A warmly rendered story of life in a small town that interweaves the mundane with the profound and the spiritual.

Told through the eyes of teenager, Fuzzy Mac, awkward episodes of teen rivalry and romance sit alongside the mystery of Nan’s visions and a ghostly encounter. Against a backdrop of quirky characters, including the holocaust survivor who went to school with Einstein and the little priest always rushing off to bury someone before the heat gets to them, Grace Beside Me is full of humour and timely wisdom.
Thirteen year old Ocean Skye McCardell, affectionately known as Fuzzy Mac, lives within the small outback town of Laurel Dale. Since her mother passed, Fuzzy has lived with her grandparents, known to the town as Nan and Pop, her father employed in the mining industry and unable to care for his only child. Thirteen years of age will become a monumental year for Fuzzy as she begins to see spirits, a long held tradition of Seer passed down through the McCardell women. Navigating adolescence as Fuzzy finds her sense of self, her ancestry and her role as an Indigenous, Irish and South Sea Islander young woman.

It's the listening and telling of stories that bring our people close, both young and old. Stories keep our culture strong and our faith alive. 

Politically, the landscape of Australia is changing. The Australian government have announced a national day of apology, a small step towards the process of healing Indigenous communities, touching on long held racism, prejudice and the Stolen Generation. Grace Beside Me places the focus on family and the small community of Laurel Dale's societal issues. The neighbours experiencing domestic violence, Holocaust survivors, Uncle Lefty who through loss of identity, is now on the straight and narrow. Nan and Pop are pillars of the small town community, caring for the downtrodden.

The diversity of characters are wonderful. Nan is biracial Indigenous and Irish, her mother Koori and father of Irish heritage. Nan and her sisters were only young girls when they were stolen from their families. Pop is a descendant of the South Sea Islanders, enslaved and brought to Australia. Indigenous Australian, Mฤori, European and white Australia coexist within the small community that is beautifully portrayed. 

The writing is incredibly organic, Sue McPherson engages readers within the narrative as I felt as though I was part of the Laurel Dale community. Simple, wonderful storytelling at its finest.

Watch the Adaptation

Kyliric Masella shines as the character of Fuzzy Mac, a beautiful young Indigenous girl who is coming of age. After her mother died of an overdose, Fuzzy has been raised by her grandparents, her father working in the mines and unable to care for his daughter. Her journey begins on the morning of her thirteenth birthday, coinciding with the spiritual Spooky Month, leading Fuzzy to learn she is to become a Seer of spiritual insight, guided by the spirits of her ancestors.

Each episode of the thirteen part series follows Fuzzy as she learns about her gift and the spirits that need assistance before moving on. It entwines the Indigenous spiritual beliefs with a wonderful sense of family, as Nan and Pop are always a positive influence in Fuzzy's life, helping guide her moral compass. 

Navigating her adolescence, friendship, family and responsibilities, Grace Beside Me is a beautiful blend of diverse Australiana and the celebration of Indigenous country, spirit and history. Adapted from the award winning novel by Sue McPherson, published by Magabala Books and previously screened on NITV, you can watch season one of Grace Beside Me on ABC iView here. Or check out the trailer by clicking here.

 Grace Beside Me
Magabala books is a non for profit arts organisation and independent Aboriginal Corporation with the objective of restoring, preserving and maintaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and the rights of traditional storytellers and artists. To read more about Magabala Books and to donate, visit their website.

20 comments

  1. That's so cool that the book was turned into a mini series. I hope it did it justice, since it seems like a really important novel. I don't know a lot about the history of Australia, so I love when you share book reviews like these where the author really dives into the past of Australia and how that still affects the country today. Living in the U.S., there is obviously still a lot of racism in the country, but it's interesting to me to see how this occurs, if you will, in other countries and how people deal with it.

    Thanks for sharing!
    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. The television adaption is beautiful, it has a very spiritual feel and wonderfully diverse cast. It's been adapted for a slightly younger audience and blends humour with social issues and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. It's also a brilliant learning tool for primary aged children as the adaptation touches upon the Stolen Generation and the apology given from the Australian government on behalf of the Australian population.

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  2. The diversity, the community -- it all sounds wonderful! I can only hope more readers and viewers find this show/book. I must admit, I didn't expect the addition of Fuzzy seeing spirits -- I thought this was a coming of age, non paranormal story.

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    1. Rather than being paranormal, the spirits are very much a part of the Indigenous identity. One example is Fuzzy's connection to her ancestor Lola, her spirit guides and guards the local forest. It incorporates the Indigenous culture throughout the storyline. It was so wonderfully written and beautifully portrayed on screen.

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  3. This sounds wonderful. I wonder if they'll ever release the show over here.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. Probably depends on whether producers will be approved for a second series. I have my fingers crossed, I really enjoyed it and wondering if we could use a petition to gather support.

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  4. Sounds like it was a really good read, and I love that there's a new culture to learn about too. I would like to see this as a little longer read though because I wouldn't want to end.(lol) Hugs...RO

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    1. My thoughts exactly! I thoroughly enjoyed both but reading the novel before seeing the adaption really gave me a deeper perspective of the town of Laurel Dale and how important the McCardell family is. In terms of community and also as traditional land owners as well.

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  5. I like to read a novel before watching the movie. So I can understand the nuances.

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    1. Same, mostly. There's been a few instances where I've seen the adaptations first, like the Harry Potter franchise and I must admit, I preferred the films. The Grace Beside Me adaptation is for younger viewers which will also appeal to the wider audience.

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  6. Fantastic review Kelly. I am really looking forward to reading and watching this one.

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    1. You'll really enjoy this Sarah, looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

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  7. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Kell! I think it's amazing that we finally have a show for young people with and Indigenous girl at the helm. I think we needed one before now, but I suppose it's great that it's happening at last. I really want to sit down and watch it but I'm unsure if I want to read the book first. I usually end up watching an adaptation before reading the book if I havem't read the book by the time the adaption is widely available, haha. Lovely review! <3

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    1. The book in comparison is much more mature, recommended for older readers but the adaptation is wonderful for the middle grade audience and older. You could watch the series while it's still available as the first episode is a lovely introduction to who Fuzzy Mac is and her heritage. I loved both for entirely different reasons but adored the adaptation and seeing a wonderfully diverse cast of Indigenous actors. Something we don't see often enough.

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  8. love the cover and review! Have to say this is time for them to shine

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    1. It's simply beautiful Ailyn and Grace Beside Me was first published in 2012 by the wonderful Magabala Books, so it should be widely available in all libraries! Don't forget to check out the adaptation on ABC on Demand as well.

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  9. I'm not sure if the book is for me, but the adaptation looks sweet and wonderful! ♥ Heck yes for awesome diverse reads and adaptations. So glad you enjoyed this, Kelly Bear! ♥

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    1. I can understand as it does have confronting themes but they are written with incredible compassion and care. If you're after something lighter and fun, the adaptation sounds more so your style. It's joyous and spiritual and I love the focus on friendship and families.

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  10. I'm happy you enjoyed this one so much! I like that the money spent on this book is going towards something that will really help people. Preserving cultures is something we should have started doing ages ago... think of all that we've lost. It was unnecessary and easily avoidable, which only makes it worse.

    ๐‘‹ Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. Magabala Books is such a wonderful publisher. Being non for profit, funds are placed back into their programs within the Indigenous arts. An amazing organisation with an incredible history. It really shows the importance of governments needing to step up and fund Indigenous arts doesn't it.

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