Aussie Book Review: Red Sand Sunrise by Fiona McArthur
Format: ARC courtesy of Penguin Books
Publication Date: 25 Junel 2014
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Imprint: Michael Joseph
From the Cover
"When the father she barely knew dies suddenly, midwife Eve Wilson decides she owes it to him to go to the funeral and meet her stepfamily in Red Sand. She doesn't expect to be so completely charmed by the beautiful remote township in far west Queensland – or by local station owner, Lex McKay.
After disappointment and heartbreak in Sydney, Dr Callie Wilson decides it might be time to move home to spend some time with her grieving mother. When she is approached to oversee the establishment of the area's first medical clinic, it seems the perfect opportunity. And Callie is keen to involve Eve, the sister she's just getting to know.
Melbourne-based obstetrician Sienna Wilson can't understand why anyone would want to bury themselves in the outback, but when her hospital sends her north to research the medical mystery affecting women in Red Sand, it seems fate is intent on bringing the three sisters together. And when disaster strikes, they must each decide if being true to themselves means being there for each other...
Red Sand Sunrise is a romantic, heartfelt story from an internationally bestselling author. It celebrates the strength of family ties, the renewing power of love, and the passion of ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.”
Summary and Thoughts
Drama and tragedy abound in this emotionally wrought story brought to us by Australian author Fiona McArthur, as she puts her three heroines through the paces of life, death and birth in the Outback.
A successful Obstetrician in Melbourne, Sienna Wilson is a hard egg to crack. While her sister Eve heads to the small township of Red Sand in western Queensland to attend the funeral of the father she didn’t know, Sienna has no desire to meet the “other” family of the man who deserted them, and would rather continue climbing her ladder to success in the city.
Eve is not expecting to be welcomed with open arms by her father’s other family - her half-sister Callie and his widow, Sylvia - but she is overwhelmed with the generosity of their hearts and the unadulterated warmth which is shown to her.
Callie, older than Eve by ten years, was a successful GP in Sydney until, after suffering a personal trauma and heartbreak at the hands of her ex-husband, thought it prudent to move home and rather offer support to her grieving mother than remain in an unhappy existence in the city.
Motivated by three family tragedies of her own, the formidable matriarch of McKay Holdings, Blanche McKay approaches Callie at her father’s wake seeking her assistance in finding staff for a medical clinic she wishes to fund and build in Red Sand because, as if the drought in Red Sand isn’t bad enough, affecting many property owners’ livelihoods, it has become apparent that something is threatening the lives of the town’s unborn babies, causing them to be born prematurely.
With the two sisters already having begun to form a close relationship that both appear hesitant to lose, Callie discusses Blanche's idea with Eve, asking if she knows of any midwives who could possibly want to come out to Red Sand for six months to trial it, while she gets herself settled in with Sylvia. The prospect immediately appeals to Eve as she sees it not only as a challenge but a chance for change and getting to know her sister better, but she will need to go back to the city for a while to think about it and tie up her affairs.
It's not long before Sienna gets her first taste of Red Sand when her and Eve are called for the reading of their father's will which has a stipulation requiring that they both be present. Needless to say, Sienna is not happy, even though it's only for a day ... and she doesn't get to escape meeting Blanche McKay.
Speaking of Blanche, I did mention before that she was formidable didn’t I? So, it’s no surprise to the reader that eleven weeks after her first visit, when Eve has already taken up her position at the clinic, Blanche is once again on a mission after another near tragedy involving a mother and baby. She needs answers and she needs them now – preferably from someone who is familiar with research. Sienna is at the top of her list and the lady with the deep pockets has her seconded to the town on a three month research trip to find out what is elevating the premature birth rates so substantially.
When the stand-offish Sienna finally makes her unhappy appearance, her arrival in town is nothing less than memorable, as she assists a young resident of the town to give birth to her baby on the side of the road, but it is an almost fatal accident in which a road train and a ute connect that will see Eve and Sienna in a race against time to save the life of the pregnant woman and her unborn baby trapped within the confines of the mangled wreck.
A midwife herself, Fiona McArthur, has written an engaging tale which, while it will have readers immersing themselves in both the beauty and harshness of the Outback, will also have then nodding their heads in agreement as "women's fiction meets rural medical drama". In her latest offering, Fiona tugs at our heartstrings as we get to feel the depth of the loves, losses, trials and tribulations of these three strong and independent women intermingled within the wider focus of the isolation of the Outback and the minimal access to medical assistance.
Much like the Rev John Flynn pioneered his way to success with campaigning for and then establishing the much needed Royal Flying Doctor's Service, in Red Sand Sunrise, Fiona gives us Blanche McKay, the wealthy benefactress who rises to the challenge of seeking out and providing the required medical skills in their suffering Outback town and, for those of us who live in both the capitals and larger regional cities in Australia (like Toowoomba where I live), I think that we often take advantage of the medical services we have at our disposal - services that can arrive in next to no time with the push of three simple zeros - and we tend to forget about those living in isolation and having to make do with the little that is available to them on short notice.
The RFDS and Flying Obstetrician offer a wonderful and important service and Fiona McArthur has done a brilliant job of bringing this home to us as she puts the perils of living in remote locations into real life perspective, painting a vivid picture of the medical struggles which our Outback counterparts face every day of their lives.
From corrugations in the dirt, dry creek beds and the raucous cockatoos in the trees, to Eve and Sienna fighting against the clock to save the lives of a mother and unborn baby as I stood by literally feeling the sun beating down on my head with the red dirt settling on my tongue, Fiona has given us the Outback in all its ochre and brown glory, in a story that will warm your heart on a cold winter’s day.
I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this heart-warming tale of loss, love and the gift of family.
A Little About the Author
Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for twenty-five years. She is a clinical midwifery educator and teaches emergency obstetric strategies while working with midwives and doctors from remote and isolated areas.
She has written more than thirty romances, which have sold over two million copies in twelve languages and has been a RWA Romantic Book of the Year finalist and American Cataromance Readers Choice finalist. A midwifery expert for Mother and Baby magazine, she is also the author of the non-fiction work, The Don't Panic Guide to Birth.
Much to the pleasure of her ex-paramedic husband, she has sold her motorbike and finally had her first parachute experience, as well as booked her next research trip.
Fiona lives in northern New South Wales.
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