Little Kellyanne Williamson has fallen ill, seemingly in mourning for her lost friends, Pobby and Dingan. Of course, everyone in the town of Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, knows that Pobby and Dingan are imaginary, including Kellyanne's family. But her ineffectual dad volunteers to go looking for them at the mine where he works, scuttling to find opals, and gets accused of "ratting" on someone else's claimDwhich costs him dearly in this dirt-poor town. Then, surprisingly himself, Kellyanne's heretofore exasperated brother takes up the cause, and soon he has persuaded many of the townsfolk to search for the lost friends as well. Through this heartbreaking little fable, first novelist Rice shows "what it is to believe in something which is hard to see, [and] to keep looking for something which is totally hard to find." The novel could have been treacly, but Rice instead delivers a lesson in faith and humility in tough, sinewy, wholly unsentimental prose. This could well attract more than just literary readers.DBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In his taut debut novel, a fable about how dreams can ennoble life, Rice uses words sparingly to show that even ordinary people can behave heroically to help those they love. He evokes the small town of Lightning Ridge, Australia's opal capital, and its eccentric residents, as the atmospheric background to a story celebrating the need for tolerance of individual idiosyncrasies. Despite bizarre characters like Fat Walt, who owns the "house-made-completely-from-bottles," and Domingo the castle builder, Ashmol Williamson believes that his younger sister, eight-year-old Kellyanne, is an exceptionally peculiar "fruitloop." After all, her best and only friends, Pobby and Dingan, are imaginary. While Kellyanne shares her "lollies" and Violet Crumble chocolate bars with her fantasy friends, the ever skeptic Ashmol makes sure to express his disapproval by "tutting" between gulps of his Mellow Yellow. Yet when Kellyanne's health begins to decline shortly after her miner father "loses" her "fairy-friends" at his opal claim, narrator Ashmol sets out on his "chopper" (a bicycle with cardboard attached to the spokes) to organize a search party. Hoping that his sister will eventually find Pobby and Dingan herself if she sees that other people think (or pretend) they're real, Ashmol pedals from bars to bowling clubs, announcing his purpose and posting signs. The next day, good-natured friends and neighbors set about searching under bushes and around trees, but their attempts prove futile as Kellyanne's health continues to deteriorate. Desperate to save his sister, Ashmol finally realizes that only he can find Pobby and Dingan by believing in their existence. Just as Peter Pan entreats the audience to clap if they believe in fairies, Rice's touching tale asks the reader as well as the citizens of Lightning Ridge to have faith in the invisible. 50,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.