About the book
My River Sanctuary is about Kim Chen who has grown up on the banks of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. She is a descendant of one of the first Chinese immigrants to the state during the gold rush of the 1880s. Kim continues her father’s legacy of growing Chinese vegetables on the river.
She has a son, Ayden, born to her first love, Jack, the boy next door who has left her to become an army photographer in Afghanistan. Kim struggles to keep her farm profitable in Perth even in the midst of a mining boom.
She enlists the help of Ara, an Afghan refugee awaiting release into the community. Kim’s dream is to develop a world garden, a garden that encompasses plants from the countries of all the migrants who have settled in Perth, and create a self-sustaining business from the produce. She faces opposition from everyone in the community, and eventually must fight to save her identity, her son and her land.
The story flows like the Swan River through memory, loss and a family struggling against the tide.
‘An insightful book of gentle beauty capturing Perth’s unique isolation’ – The West Australian newspaper
Having grown up on the banks of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia, Kim’s Chinese roots extend all the way back to the nation’s first prospectors. Suddenly in the midst of a mining boom, Kim draws on her ancestral lineage in her efforts to rebuild her father’s urban farm; however, when she partners with Ara, an Afghan refugee, to do so, she faces considerable backlash from the community. Will Kim and her family survive the swelling tide of cultural and political backlash?
Timely, hard-hitting, and skillfully crafted, My River Sanctuary is an enthralling read. In it, author Robin Bower masterfully combines vivid, realistic characters with a compelling story line to relate a poignant tale that may hit a little too close to home for many readers. Given the current political and cultural climate not only in America, but worldwide, My River Sanctuary delves deep into the strident xenophobic, jingoistic conversation being held in nations across globe. If the purpose of art & literature is to provoke and unsettle, then Robin Bower is the consummate disruptor – a much needed one for this day and age. A highly recommended read.
Amber Wright, Apex Reviews
This is Writing
Robin Bower’s My River Sanctuary is a story about family and intermingling cultures set in the lush backdrop of Perth, Australia. The book touches on many themes that I love reading about such as cultural identity, racism, refugees, mental illness, family dynamics, and war.
Set by the Swan River in South Perth, My River Sanctuary weaves a heart-warming story around two women. Kim, a Chinese-Australian woman, is yearning for connection with her teenage son and with her own heritage. She enlists the help of Ara, a newly arrived asylum seeker from Afghanistan to re-build her father’s market garden into a modern-day urban farm. The garden’s smells, textures and bounty fill Kim and Ara with memories and connection beyond their own imaginings. Told across a thirty-year time span, My River Sanctuary is a big story of love, rejection, prejudice and identity, and throughout, that big old river, constant as ever, rolls on.
The West Australian newspaper
My River Sanctuary is a beautifully crafted novel with a Perth setting. The story flows with the Swan River, a symbol of strength bonding the lives of its characters. Kim, a university professor and fourth-generation Chinese and her son Ayden, live close to it, Ayden’s absent father, Jack, is deployed in Afghanistan. Ara, an Afghan refugee who had been brought up as a boy by her parents, is enlisted by Kim to help transform her neglected family farm. Relationships, diverse cultures, refugees and xenophobia are sensitively intertwined to make an insightful book of gentle beauty capturing Perth’s unique isolation.
Elaine Fry, The West Australian newspaper
Top customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars
Gentle and poignant
This sensitive story has a gentle flow that keeps the river in our peripheral vision as if we’re sitting on its bank to read. It weaves a charm around cultural friction, healing the past without skimming over the pain experienced by those who risk everything to begin again. Alongside the river, Kim’s garden is an evocative metaphor for the richness promised by embracing refugees. A poignant story of today, set in a seemingly timeless world.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a novel which proves that anything is possible
This is an excellent story, filled with interesting, three-dimensional characters who, against great odds, are struggling to make a go of their lives. A hundred years ago the Chinese came in their millions to work on the railways and in the mines. Now, Kim, four generations on from those early migrants and as westernised as it’s possible to be, must interact with a new immigrant from another Asian country. This is that story – and it’s a great one.
John Harman, author and ghostwriter