Di Morrisey immerses the reader in the world of the Australian Outback: raw, powerful, harsh and supremely beautiful. Highly recommended.
In the land of the Opal hunters, there is so much more than the eye can see and not just underground. Many who take refuge in the remote and lonely outposts of the desert seeking this elusive treasure, metaphorically seek other things in their lives as well: answers, escape and self-understanding.
The novel entwines the story of three women, each desperately needing to work out something unresolved in their lives. Their friendship is the driving force that brings the needed changes in their lives. As Di Morrisey says, “Women friends are special. They can shape who we are and who we want to be.” And itt is this life-enhancing power of friendship that brings healing after great love and loss. It is the support system that provides the impetus and courage to embark on a path in life that will ultimately bring happiness.
Shirley, who has resolutely refused to leave her dugout for decades, documents the histories of the Opal miners as a fast dying breed. Kerrie, who has devoted her life to her husband’s career and is devastated by his loss, finds inspiration in the desolate beauty of the evocative Opal country. She captures its spirit when it awakens in her the inspiration to begin to paint once again. Anna, who retreats to the unknown to find out what she really wants, finds the discipline and mental strength she needs in these surroundings. At the heart, as a result of their friendship, these three women are freed from the mental millstones that burden them.
It is impossible not to be drawn into the bleak loveliness of the Opal desert environment, into the pursuit of the Opal that obsesses the miners’ lives. The novel is, in a way, also a celebration of the beauty of the Opal and the lives of the miners who seek the gemstone so fervently.
“The Opal Desert” is a book that evokes a real love of the unique Australian terrain and an appreciation of the Opal as a complex and truly beautiful Australian jewel. But it is, above all, a story about the inimitable friendship between women.