Once A Stranger
(Hachette, March 2023)
A novel about family, tradition, loss and the challenge of feeling at home, from the author of the memoir No Country Woman.
Their mother was sick. Their mother was dying.
Laila wanted her to come home.
She wasn't sure which of the two truths was more frightening.
Ayat hasn't seen or spoken to her sister, Laila, and mother, Khadija, for six years. She has been estranged from her family since she baulked against the arranged marriage of her sister and settled into a relationship deemed haram by Indian Muslim tradition.
Living in Melbourne, with Harry, Ayat's a different person now, living a different life. She is not the woman her mother and sister once knew - so how can she go home? But how can she not?
Once a Stranger weaves through the past and present to show the bonds and disconnects between sisters, and between a mother and daughter, as the three women grapple with the idea of where they feel most at home.
No Country Woman
'An ambitious, nuanced and confident debut: Patel writes with passion, curiosity and purpose.' Maxine Beneba Clarke, bestselling and award winning author of The Hate Race, Foreign Soil, The Patchwork Bike and Carrying The World A fresh and exciting feminist memoir about what it means to never feel at home where you live.
'I was born in a hospital in Suva, Fiji. I can't recall ever seeing the building on my trips back to the city, first as a child or later as an adult. I imagine it in shades of blue and brown, the plastic waiting room chairs covered in the fine film of moisture that creeps over everything there. It is not a place I've thought of often, but I think of it now and wonder how it has shaped me. I am Fijian-Indian, and have lived in Australia since I was three years old. Memories of my early life in Fiji are limited to flashes, like an old film projector running backwards. I remember a blue dress, a trip on a boat where my father handed me a dried, floating starfish that I clutched in my fingers, determined not to lose it back to the ocean.'
No Country Woman is the story of never knowing where you belong. It's about not feeling represented in the media you consumed, not being connected to the culture of your forebears, not having the respect of your peers.
It's about living in a multicultural society with a monocultural focus but being determined to be heard.
It's about challenging society's need to define us and it's a rallying cry for the future.
It's a memoir full of heart, fury and intelligence - and the book we need right now.