The Price of Two Sparrows by Christy Collins
In a Sydney beachside suburb in early 2004, a block of land next to a bird sanctuary has been purchased by members of the Muslim community to build a mosque. The mosque has been designed by talented young architect Salema with the intention of incorporating the natural environment to create a peaceful area for people to gather and pray. Meanwhile ornithologist Heico has been asked by the media to comment on the upcoming development and its effect on the migratory birds in that vicinity. Unaware what the proposed development is, Heico sends compromised information to a paper which overlays years of data onto the one map thus exaggerating the visitation rate of birds to the area.
The Price of Two Sparrows is the debut novel from Christy Collins, a writer from an academic background whose fiction talents have already been recognised through the 2015 Viva La Novella Prize (among other achievements). Collins’s background in both the academic and the creative has produced a unique and intelligent piece of work that explores the things people hold sacred and the importance and challenges of creating and protecting sacred spaces. Salema is a wonderful character: purposeful and confident, yet realistic. She is a perfect complement to Nahla (Heico’s cleaner) who has recently moved to Australia and is exactly the type of person for whom the mosque is being built. Most intriguing, however, is Kadim, the teller of fables and stories and the only character written in first person.
I had to spend days thinking about this book before I could even attempt to start writing about it and I have a feeling that’s exactly what Collins wants us to do. She presents the issues in all their complexity and readers are asked to respond by drawing on their own experiences and beliefs. This is a perfect book for both private contemplation and discussion with others.