Lisa McKay’s My Hands Came Away Red was the first 2008 To Be Read title chosen from my enormous TBR stack, and I can tell you the bar has just been set pretty high.
This debut novel by a native Aussie now living in the US reads like it’s real. You don’t want it to be real – hands that are red from spilled blood horrify us – but McKay takes you and your five senses right there to the jungles of injustice and you travel the same road of fear and doubt that her young protagonist travels. It doesn’t seem to matter that the narrator is a restless 17-year-old just out to take in a short term mission trip; there is no generation gap to bridge. It reads like the girl relating the story still has the stained hands to prove it all really happened. You don’t have to be a teenager to appreciate what she and her companions went through. You only have to be human.
The premise of the book is this: A group of half a dozen teenagers – all with their own set of personal challenges – head to a remote Indonesian island on a short term mission trip. Within days of building a church, they watch in shock as it burns. Muslims and Christians alike have begun to kill each other in neighboring villages. A news team might’ve called it sectarian violence, though it was simply people killing people, young, old, male, female – it didn’t matter – based on nothing more than ethnicity. The people in the village where the teens were staying were summarily slaughtered and the teens escaped into the jungle with a young native and his baby sister.
No one knows they are alive. No one knows where they are. No one can explain to them how Muslims from one village can take a machete to Christians in another village, nor how Christians from one village can slaughter Muslims in another. The story of the teenagers’ survival is the story of seizing hope though it elude you like a golden Snitch.
I especially liked that McKay didn’t end her story with the teenagers on a plane back to the States, safe and sound. Rescue doesn’t always translate into all is normal again. Actually, it probably never does.
To say more might ruin it for you. It’s a great read by a fresh, new voice. Highly recommended, Edglings. . .