“Something in the Water”
Tui Allen’s Ripple is a beautiful book, filled with charm and surprises and I am better off having read it, as a writer and as an occupant of Planet Earth.
It’s a story about dolphins. OK, so I really did think I’d finished with dolphin stories (actually, I wonder if I ever have read a dolphin story). My children are grown and Finding Nemo is so ten years ago. But Ripple is not Nemo. Yes, we have the undersea community and plenty of adventurous wanderers who need to pursue their life dream, including working out parental issues; but where Nemo is for children and tosses fish out of water into the human world, Ripple is for adults and completely re-defines the world and the universe we live in—our time and space and our internal connections with them.
But why is Ripple such a beautiful book? It is the themes and the character, but it also the words—the colours, the sounds, the vocabulary of an adept writer—a writer who has seemingly lived the sea and its creatures, followed their movements and imagined wondrous things that, in this book, don’t seem so far-fetched (You can read more about the author’s biography on her website. I found it easy to imagine being in the the ocean with the dolphins, sharks and other beautiful, humorous and dangerous creatures. Cosmo and the male astronomers are daring, masculine astronauts, Ripple is delightful as are the community of female dolphins. The scenes with the deep sea monster Erishkigal are truly frightening.
The world in Ripple is beautiful and it is because the creatures in Allen’s ocean see the beauty in the world that we see it too. But a lesson learned is that sometimes, to see that beauty, there is a search, a journey – work to be done, even sins to be overcome, walls to be broken down, shackles to be shed. Death is dealt with—death that initiates journeys and brings redemption in life.
Not only death, but other complex themes are addressed: displacement of an individual from one community and integration into another, leaving an “old life” behind to pursue a dream; intervention of the divine in earthly (or Azurian) affairs.
For me, the core theme was that, in the divine spark in us (or dolphins), there is beauty – a beauty that sings, makes music and reveals wonders to the world and even to the universe.
Comparing with my own novel, I can confirm that Tui Allen and I hold, and live, two very different spiritual perspectives – and would have a great conversation someday – but as writers, we are not altogether on different pages. We both see beauty and light somewhere in the darkness. Perhaps it’s this land of New Zealand we live in – or perhaps between the River and the deep blue sea, there is something in the water that sings and listens to us both.
A variation of this review is featured on stuff.co.nz
Antony Millen is a Canadian living and writing in New Zealand and the author of Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River to Hiruharama and Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s).