In this thought-provoking outback romance, we follow a woman leaving the city to return to Alice Springs, where she gradually finds fulfilment in life and love. Then complications intervene and threaten her very happiness...
Alicia's life is at a crossroads. She's feeling at a loss with her life in Sydney, when news that her mother is critically ill takes her back to her childhood home of Alice Springs. After a touch and go period, Alicia's mother starts to recover and Alicia is offered a job setting up a school and teaching at an Aboriginal outstation.
Surrounded by the mesmerising beauty of the desert, Alicia takes charge of the new school. The challenges are substantial and the work demanding – but it's also deeply satisfying and Alicia is the most fulfilled she's ever been.
When Alicia meets Patrick, he seems to be everything she's ever looked for in a man. But then things get complicated... Set in Australia's exotic red centre, From Alice With Love is an outback romance with a difference. More than just a love story, Jo Dutton explores the issues of this majestic country that many will not have visited, to meet characters they may not be familiar with and at its end prove there is a lot to learn about forgiveness and love in this cross-cultural community.
Author Jo Dutton explains the inspiration for her book - 'I've lived in Central Australia for a long time. I was working as a teacher in a small intergenerational learning centre established by eastern Arrente families in Alice Springs. It had a school, art centre, church and play group. It was a vibrant centre and had grown up in partnership with the families. The learning centre was unceremoniously gutted in 2006 when the education department withdrew funding and the school and the teaching staff were withdrawn. It occurred to me then to write a novel about the alternative dream people had. A school on their out-station. An impossible dream! The book evolved from there. It is now a book about a number of people's hopes and dreams."
Jo Dutton spent her early childhood years in the Solomon Islands, her teenage years in Perth and has for the last twenty years called, the Arrernte country of Alice Springs, home. She came for a short term job twenty years ago, fell in love with the Centre and never left.
From Alice With Love
Allen and Unwin
Author: Jo Dutton
Question: Why did you decide to write From Alice With Love set in Alice Springs?
Jo Dutton: I wanted to write a positive story about Central Australia that normalised relationships between the various cultural groups who live here. I love Alice Springs and I was feeling sad about the amount of negativity about the place and its people. Also I like to write stories so I, my kids, my community, can see their world a little more on the page.
Question: What aspects of the book are inspired by your own life?
Jo Dutton: I was working with Eastern Arrernte people in the early part of this decade and they very much wished for a school to be built on their own country. This novel was initially inspired by that dream of theirs. Now it's about an assortment of characters hopes and dreams.
Question: What do you love most about Alice Springs?
Jo Dutton: I love the country, it's amazing beautiful. I came twenty odd years ago on a winter's day to interview for a three month job and never left. I remember getting off the bus from Darwin and just looking at the big sky and the ranges which circle town and having a very strong feeling that I was home. I know it sounds a bit trippy but I fell in love with the country that June day. I stay because I like the strong sense of community. It's vibrant, creative and caring. And I like the reminder I am living in country not as neatly colonised as people would like to think and that the owners of this country despite being very much abused have a great resilience, sense of humour and generosity.
Question: Can you talk about the characters introduced in From Alice With Love that we may not be familiar with?
Jo Dutton: Perhaps it's easier to explain by this story. Once I was introduced at a writers festival as Jo from Alice Springs who knows Aboriginal people who go hunting; (I'd just been talking to the person introducing me about a bush trip I'd been on), I was quite embarrassed as the story was relayed as if this was some amazing big deal. I think it's easy to forget that Aboriginal people aren't just members of the oldest living culture; they are practitioners of that culture in many forms. From hunting to film making. From the Centre to the coast. Like all people they have many and varied relationships with the rest of the world. In From Alice with Love I have tried to be matter of fact about what may be unknown to people outside of where I live, not for dramatic effect but because so much of the interface is ordinarily real. Like all writers I can only write about what I know and I think I know this world fairly well from my own point of reference.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?
Jo Dutton: I hope readers take away a sense that Central Australia is a beautiful place and that life everywhere is complicated so it's a good idea to stick to what's true for you. And of course the romantic idea that love can be found in the least unexpected of places, so follow your heart!
Question: What advice do you have for Australians looking at travelling to Alice Springs?
Jo Dutton: Visit in autumn or spring when the weathers the most temperate. Remember Alice Springs might be the heart of the country but like everywhere as a traveller you only get as much love from a place as you put in. Think about doing some walking. The Larapinta Trail is an amazing walk and you can do a lot or a little. Or drive out to different places in the Mcdonald Ranges, they run east and west, and have a look about. Or best of all come this October when the Mbantua festival is on and get blown away by the cultural richness of the region.
Interview by Brooke Hunter