In a stunning debut novel that evokes the epic scope of Colleen McCullough’s classic The Thorn Birds, Harmony Verna creates a poignant story of forbidden love and unwielding courage, set in Australia and America in the early decades of the twentieth century.
1898, Western Australia. A crippled miner finds an abandoned young child in the harsh outback, barely alive, mute and suffering severe burns. He saves her life by taking her to the nearest town, Leonora, after which she is named. And so begins the gripping saga that spans continents.
When the little girl arrives in the town, she is cared for by a kindly doctor’s wife but conditions are harsh and the doctor forbids his wife from adopting the child. So abandoned again, Leonora is sent to a series of orphanages until finding care under the well-intentioned Father McIntyre. Though she remains mute, Leonora forms a bond with another isolated orphan, James, who protects her from the cruel orphanage bullies. But once again both are abandoned and sent away – Leonora to a wealthy American family, James to relatives from Ireland.
Years later, Leonora grasps the chance to return to her beloved Australia and comes face to face with James once more. But their fortunes and lives have been worlds apart; James has endured hardship but finally grown from the reticent boy into a powerful man. Leonora has found wealth and marriage to another man. Through war and turmoil their will and courage are tested in this compelling and page-turning story.
Daughter of Australia is a truly epic book in its sweeping scale across continents and Verna skillfully draws us into another time and place, conjuring the elegance of high society, contrasting with the harsh, hot landscape of the Australian outback.
Harmony Verna is a name to watch. Previously a freelance writer and with twenty years in communications, this is her debut novel. Daughter of Australia was a final round selection for the James Jones First Novel Contest. Verna lives in Newtown, Connecticut, with her husband and their three young boys.