Monday, April 27, 2009

Mutant Message Down Under - Marlo Morgan

Summary - An American woman is summoned by a remote tribe of nomadic Aboriginals, who call themselves the "Real People," to accompany them on a four-month long walkabout through the Outback. While traveling barefoot with them through 1,400 miles of rugged desert terrain, she learns a new way of life, including their methods of healing, based on the wisdom of their 50,000-year-old culture. Ultimately, she experiences a dramatic personal transformation. (Exerpt from Harpercollins.com--Picture from Amazon.com)

Also reviewed by Heather.

My review - Mutant Message is the account of a woman who ventures into the Australian Outback for a day trip, and ends up going on a 120-day walkabout with a small aboriginal tribe. With her belongings burned at the beginning of the journey, she makes the trek in nothing but the small scrap of clothing they give her to wear. As the days wear on, the woman find herself transforming into someone else. She develops a greater understanding of the Aboriginal people as they share experiences and impart life lessons that can be learned simply by observing the environment. Her conclusions about these “primitive” people draw a stark contrast between their world and our own--leaving many, including myself, to examine the things that we place value on, how much we really need them, and what is truly important.

The message in this book, among other things, centered around what we can do to be better human beings, how we can become more one with ourselves and each other, and the importance of giving one’s own wants and desires over to that of a higher power. I noticed some astounding similarities between Aboriginal beliefs and my own in terms of the origin of the soul, the purpose of the environment, and the nature of God. While many of the situations in this book defy belief, I am not entirely ready to discount them. I believe in miracles and, consequently, it is entirely possible that these men and women nearly untouched by the outside world, could communicate via mental telepathy, heal broken bones without touching, and find water in the middle of the desert. It’s a tough bit to swallow, but somehow I think that my reaction is expected.

In Mutant Message, the writing is very basic. It is a sort of “he said, she said, we did this, then we did that” type of narration. While I think it could have been better written—a more lyrical prose would have made this seem more like a story and less factual, something I’m fairly certain the author wanted to stay away from.

Now here is the kicker. Is it Fiction? Non-fiction? I’ve heard both, so to clear things up a bit (or not) for anyone who might feel like reading this, a foreword by the author alleges that Mutant is a non-fiction tale that was published, for privacy and legal reasons, as a fiction novel. This could be true. It wouldn’t surprise me. It also wouldn’t surprise me if this was a fiction novel masquerading as a non-fiction novel pretending to be a fiction novel. Did you follow that? It's a pickle.

All the confusion meant that I spent this entire book wondering at every turn--did this really happen? It was very distracting. Bottom line is this: there are many authors who publish non-fiction accounts as just that, with a page explaining that they have changed certain names, places, and dates for the protection of certain people. They even admit that their telling may not be entirely accurate, but that it is as accurate as their own memory serves. This kind of NF writing is not uncommon. So why didn’t Morgan just do that? The fact that she didn’t bothers me and, in a sense, takes away from her credibility. Consequently I will be listing this book in both the Non-fiction, Fiction, and Memoir sections of this blog. You decide. I've got a headache.

Fortunately for her (as I’m sure her very existence hinges on my approval), I still felt that the message of this book rang true regardless of its reluctance to pick a genre. Mutant Message was a stirring account of how to become, not just a human, but a human being. It taught us how to live in harmony with each other and how to be one with our God in a way that is entirely different than anything I have encountered before and helped me feel a connection with a people nearly gone who live so far away. While my beliefs don’t entirely coincide with the Aboriginal ones, I feel that there are many truths that we both share and loved this book for exploring them more fully and for making me think about my status of Being in the world.

My rating: 3.75 Stars. I have a hard time giving it any higher because of all the genre confusions issues but I appreciated the story she had to tell.

To sum it up: A fascinating spiritual journey--for both the author and the reader.

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