Sunday, February 22, 2009

Siew Siang TAY ... Handpicked (HarperCollins Australia, April 2009)

MALAYSIA-BORN Siew Siang Tay’s début novel, Handpicked, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in April 2009. The novel is about an Iban village girl who escapes from her longhouse in Sarawak to become a mail-order bride to a fruit-picker living in Renmark, a town in South Australia’s rural Riverland area, some 254 kilometres northeast of Adelaide, on the banks of the River Murray.

Tay, who was born in Malacca to second-generation Chinese parents, worked for eleven years in the petroleum industry in Malaysia before leaving the corporate world and emigrating to Australia in 1992 with her daughter. She now works at the University of South Australia. Her short stories have been published in such literary magazines as Meanjin and Dimsum, among others. In 2007, she won the Varuna-HarperCollins Award for Manuscript Development which led to the publication of Handpicked. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia.

Heartiest congratulations, Siew Siang!

“A morning chill laces the air. Laila tightens her jacket. The pelican is now far away, paddling downstream, leaving behind a ribbon of the vaguest white. She follows the line of the Murray into the distance. Ahead it turns and the land makes a sudden stark outline against the disappearing glint of the water. She feels a pull, as if the river is taking her along with it, and at once remembers: that was what the Rejang River used to do to her.”

Here’s something about Handpicked:

Laila is desperate to escape life in the longhouse in her village in Sarawak. Desperate enough to travel alone to Australia to marry Jim‚ a fruit-picker living in Renmark‚ South Australia. Jim hasn’t had much luck with women—they’re always giving him a hard time. He pins his hopes on Laila changing all that. Marital bliss‚ a new life. But when Laila and Jim finally meet‚ they each discover the reality of the other‚ and things don’t go as planned. Handpicked is a subtle and sensitive exploration of the world of the mail-order bride. It is also a compelling observation of words and actions‚ expectations and consequences‚ truth and happiness.


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