When You See the Emu in the Sky: My Journey of Self-Discovery in the Outback

Overview

Lovingly written and true, When You See the Emu in the Sky is the journey of Elizabeth Fuller - vital, energetic, and free, yet saddled with unspoken grief. At home in Connecticut, she has remarried, happily, after the death of her first husband, and she has found success in her writing. But as her dearest friend - an actor who portrays Bette Davis onstage - begins to waste away from AIDS, a terrible loneliness stares her in the face once again. Her response - to gather her twelve-year-old son and flee to a place...
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Overview

Lovingly written and true, When You See the Emu in the Sky is the journey of Elizabeth Fuller - vital, energetic, and free, yet saddled with unspoken grief. At home in Connecticut, she has remarried, happily, after the death of her first husband, and she has found success in her writing. But as her dearest friend - an actor who portrays Bette Davis onstage - begins to waste away from AIDS, a terrible loneliness stares her in the face once again. Her response - to gather her twelve-year-old son and flee to a place she has dreamed of since childhood. Australia represents adventure. But events, uncanny and inexplicable, soon beckon her on a trip she has made no preparation for. It is an adventure of the soul, where the signposts are a large white cockatoo, spirits who visit in the night, and a fullblooded Aborigine named Max Eulo, who becomes her friend and guide to a culture tens of thousands of years old. The tiny Aborigine village of Enngonia, where she is a guest, is worlds apart from everything Elizabeth Fuller has known. But when her heart seems most wrenched and she feels most out of place, she senses a gateway opening - and she enters through it. "The unknown paths are the gifts of life," an Aboriginal spirit counsels her. "Stay close to the earth and you will touch the stars." And she does - in a journey that is comforting, transforming, and wonderful.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although admonished by her parents and friends for leaving her second husband of only 18 months to fend for himself while she pursued an unexplained urge to visit the Outback, Fuller, a nonfiction writer Nannies, etc. and playwright living in New York, pulled her son out of his sixth-grade class and headed for Australia. In a rented house in Manly, she encountered Aborigine spirits in the form of strange music and footsteps in the night. A ouija board put her in touch with "Dwango," a spirit dwelling in the basement, who told her she would meet a man who would take her someplace she needed to go. Soon, Max, a full-blooded Aborigine, took Fuller and her son "Back o'Bourke" beyond the point of no return, to the Outback where he grew up. Initially fearful, both Fuller and her son soon experienced life close to the earth, the spirits and the universe, and grew well beyond their former selves. Comparisons between this book and Marlo Morgan's Mutant Message Down Under are inevitable, but Fuller's story is more personal. Drawn to a strange, mystical world, she ended up facing the earthly realities she had feared mosther grief over her first husband's death, the bad reviews of her acting and the closing of her play, as well as the impending death from AIDS of her close friend and co-star. This tale offers readers a little adventure, a little human pathos, a little magic. Foreign rights sold in China and Italy. Sept.
Kirkus Reviews
Though cast against the brilliant red tones of the Australian outback, this slim volume tells a monotone tale of self-discovery.

Fuller (Nima: A Sherpa in Connecticut, 1984, etc.) stalks the spiritual, but her language is too thin, and her discoveries are trite. When her off-Broadway play flops miserably and she finds herself tormented by the imminent death of a dear friend suffering from AIDS, she takes to the road with her teenage son in search of revelation in the Australian outback. Fuller rents a house that she soon fears is inhabited by a ghost. Good fortune and abiding spirits bring her to Max Eulo, a warm-hearted Aborigine who leads her into his world and the discovery of the Aboriginal ancestor whose spiritual home she now inhabits. He teaches her to put her ear to the ground and listen for messages from a more meaningful realm. She consults Ouija boards, tracks the calls of rare birds, indulges in deep-breathing exercises, and listens for the plaintive sound of the didgeridoo pipe. At last, a spirit doctor announces that "the spiritual gateway has been lifted for her to enter." Along the way, Fuller rediscovers her profoundly midwestern upbringing, and the depth of her pain over the death of her first husband and her friend's battle with AIDS. She abandons the confines of her Connecticut home, frees her son from blue- bubble-gum and B-Ball madness, and watches for the sun rising in the outback. It is a long way to travel, and harder still to know how much she has learned because of the outback, Max Eulo, or simply the functions of distance and time.

While the itinerant melody of the didgeridoo haunts this tale, one can never hear it quite clearly enough to call it genuinely original.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688148959
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/3/1997
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The sun had just begun to set, turning the skies that canopied the vast, flat western horizon into a surrealistic red. It was the most beautiful but the most dangerous time of the day to be driving in the Australian Outback. At dusk and dawn, kangaroo go on the move. They [aren't dangerous, but they will leap into the road as if they own it. A Big Gray roo can weigh as much as two hundred pounds and can do as much damage to any moving car as the other way around.

In Australia's immense interior it's not uncommon to drive for hundreds of miles without seeing another car or house or service station. Travelers are cautioned to bring plenty of bottled water and make the trip in a caravan. Even the massive trailer trucks travel four, five, six in a row. They're called road trains—a cross between a truck and a train. Each is about thirty-five or forty feet long and will have another trailer hitched on called a dog. Sometimes six dogs are hitched on. And when you see the rigs barreling down the highway, the only thing to do is to get off the road, fast. The roads are so dead straight that you can see the trucks coming for miles. They're usually hauling cattle on three-tiered tractor-trailers. When the road trains approach, kicking up dust, rocks, and cattle droppings, the earthy drivers, like the Big Grays, don't make the weakest gesture to give you room.

In spite of all this, I felt safe with Max at my side. Max was a full-blood Aborigine, born and bred in the Outback. He knew the billibongs, the watering holes in the bush, from the ceremonial songs his mother taught him and his siblings when they were very young. He knew where and when it was going to rain by the subtlechanges in the direction of the wind. He knew how to track for rabbits simply by putting his ear to the ground. He knew how to hunt lizards and dig for witchetty grub. And he knew which flowers teemed with nectar you could drink and which would kill you within hours. With Max, we had no worries. On the other hand, it was comforting to know that the trunk of our car was loaded with supplies of water and familiar food. Before we left Sydney, Chris, my twelve-year-old son, and I filled a duffle bag with peanut butter, raisins, Robert Tims coffee bags, Cadbury chocolate bars, instant oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies, little wedges of pasteurized cheese, anything we could find to stave off hunger, just in case the wild tucker that Max had been trumpeting did not agree with us.

Excerpted from When You See the Emu in the Sky. Copyright © 1997 by Elizabeth Fuller.

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