Published: July 23rd 2014 by Text Publishing
Format: Paperback, 364 pages
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My mother always called it the eventuality. Not the maybe, or the probably. ‘It’s going to happen,’ she would tell me calmly. ‘I even know when. It’s a twist in my stars. It’s written there, and we have to accept it. My mother, Joanne Nielsen Crowe. She has a name, she’s not a was.
Avicenna Crowe’s mother, Joanne, is an astrologer with uncanny predictive powers and a history of being stalked. Now she is missing.
The police are called, but they’re not asking the right questions. Like why Joanne lied about her past, and what she saw in her stars that made her so afraid.
But Avicenna has inherited her mother’s gift. Finding an unlikely ally in the brooding Simon Thorn, she begins to piece together the mystery. And when she uncovers a link between Joanne’s disappearance and a cold-case murder, Avicenna is led deep into the city’s dark and seedy underbelly, unaware how far she is placing her own life in danger.
With its lyrical writing and quirky characters, The Astrologer’s Daughter is one of the most moving books I’ve read in a while. It’s a beautiful story about identity, secrets, and love, and I have enjoyed it a lot.
Avicenna’s mother is an astrologer. Not a psychic, and definitely not a fraud, but a true astrologer who works out the charts of her clients and then tells them what they’ve come to hear (or not hear, as the case may be). She’s kind-hearted and sympathetic, and from the very first sentence of this book, missing.
I think the best way to describe this story is real. Lim holds nothing back, and readers are taken with Avicenna on an emotional journey as she reports her mother missing, is harassed by her mother’s more ardent clients, and begins to piece together clues that tie her mother’s disappearance to an unsolved cold case. I was gripped by the writing style and Avicenna’s voice from the first page.
Avicenna is an outcast: she’s moved around a lot and won’t discuss her past, she has a Chinese father she barely remembers and looks like an outsider, and she has burn scars on her face that further ostracize her. Teenagers are cruel – actually, the world is cruel, and Avicenna cops more of it than is fair.
I love that Lim doesn’t shy away from the realities of being born in Australia but looking so obviously not-white. So so so many books in YA just have characters who are half-white and half-‘exotic’ (*vomit*) just to fulfil some horrifying diversity quota, and then don’t actually explore the feeling of displacement: of belonging in two cultures and in neither at the same time, of the prejudices and racism that still affects people today. But The Astrologer’s Daughter explores it all: the people who yell Chink-lover at Avicenna’s mother, the strangers who use their fingers to make their eyes ‘slanted’, the boy who wants Avicenna to cover up her burns so that he won’t have to look at them.
One of my favourite characters in this book is the Missing Persons police officer who becomes Avicenna’s liaison on the case. This, refreshingly, isn’t a story of a teenager taking a missing persons (or homicide) case all on their own. She works with the police and they support her in very way they can, which I loved. It doesn’t rob Avicenna of her agency but rather makes the story more believable, and it was great to see how the adults around her banded together to help her out.
Combined cleverly with all that is real and raw about this world is the undercurrent of magic in this narrative: the astrology. Although technically not magic, there’s no denying this book focusses on both the mystical and mathematical aspects of astrology. It works in the story like a magic system: there are clearly defined rules and the protagonist uses it to solve her mystery.
I’ve never read a story like The Astrologer’s Daughter and I don’t think I’m going to any time soon. It’s a uniquely magical and evocative book, one I recommend to everyone.