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Mutant Message Down Under
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A fictional account of an American woman's four-month odyssey through the Australian Outback with the region's native people shares a message about living in harmony with the world around. Reader's Guide available.
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Morgan's much-hyped first novel, a fictionalized account of a ``walkabout'' she took in the Outback with a group of Aborigines, gains from the use of authentic detail, although the storytelling is hindered by the author's heavy New Age agenda and incessant cultural proselytizing. A 50-ish alternative health practitioner from the American Midwest, Morgan was working with underprivileged Aborigine youths in the inner cities of Australia when a group of Aborigines offered her a chance to learn firsthand about their culture. Morgan's account of the tribe's customs, healing methods, food-finding tactics, etc. is absorbing, and her willingness to forgo Western luxuries and to relish the experience is courageous and touching. Less compellingly, the author claims that she was ``chosen'' by the Aborigines to tell the rest of humanity that the so-called ``real people'' are refusing to reproduce because of the ravages of Western civilization, and that Westerners have a limited time to clean up their act. Morgan's rudimentary writing skills are stretched to the limit, and she lessens the power of her story and its egalitarian lessons by adopting the perspective that Western culture is innately inferior to the naturalistic beliefs of the Aborigines. Still, with its high-powered package of New Age philosophy wrapped in an adventure narrative, this book may be the next Celestine Prophecy. (It is interesting to observe that both books began life by being self-published.) Illustrations by Carri Garrison not seen by PW. 250,000 first printing; Literary Guild Special Release; Doubleday Book Club alternate; author tour. (Sept.)

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