The Lorikeet Tree
The Lorikeet Tree is a tale of family dynamics, love and loss, against a backdrop of ecological concerns. Emily and Alex are 15-year-old twins, who live with their terminally ill, widowed father in a reforested property in Australia. Emily is passionate about safeguarding the indigenous species in their forest, whereas Alex is enthralled by a feral kitten that he adopts, providing the central conflict in the book.
The setting is reflected by an attractive cover which features Alex’s treehouse in silhouette, surrounded by a border of brilliant-coloured lorikeets, and the end papers feature silhouettes of birds, evocative of Louis le Brocquy’s illustrations of the Táin.
The story is told through her creative writing projects for school, and the narrative voice and many of the sentiments expressed felt unconvincing (to this reader at least). The risk with ‘eco-novels’ is that they come across as didactic, and The Lorikeet Tree is no exception. There is plenty of information about rewilding ethics, and we learn a lot about Australian indigenous plants and animals, but the information doesn’t sit lightly in the voice of the narrator, Emily. The potentially compelling human relationships would have benefitted from more in-depth treatment, as the storyline feels like a sketchy vehicle for carrying a lot of weighty, albeit worthy, information. The issue of teen mental health is touched on but not explored, and the father’s terminal illness is dealt with in a matter-of-fact fashion.
The book would make a good starting point for discussions about rewilding ethics.