Reviewed by Barbara Roberts
I was so pleased to receive Rita Stella Galieh’s novel from far off Australia, and intrigued by its title and subject: a title suggesting devastation, or trial by fire, a test some soul had endured and would now tell.
Both the heroine and the period were bound to entertain: a young woman finding answers about her mysterious childhood and finding her way at the turn of the twentieth century in a new federation: Australia. It must have been daunting for a young woman at that time in history to become a journalist, but Opalena, named for the brilliant gems found in that intriguing country, fought her battles with grace and determination, fought her demons with courage and tenacity, and steered through the muddying waters of love and romance without flinching. Well, maybe she flinched a little.
Ms. Galieh has drawn some very endearing characters alongside Opalena. The old miner who was her rescuer,Tom Beecham, exhibits the same sort of simple, dependable character as the most lovable sidekick of the most heroic American cowboy. Her Gee Gee epitomizes ‘supporting role’. The romantic interests of Opalena draw a contrast between the American, Matthew, who is so comfortable in his Christian faith, and the fiery Jewish musician, David, who is resistant to religion.
As the crises arising in her life are played out and resolved, we see a maturing, lovely young woman emerge whose successes and victories we gladly cheer.
Thank you, Rita Stella Galieh, for sharing your vivid and enjoyable panorama of Sydney and other Australian vistas. Your love and delight for your country comes through to us and we are so glad our nations are friends and allies, and that we are joined across the seas in Christian sisterhood and brotherhood. All success to you.