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Publisher's Summary

'You are her mother at this moment. The future is another time.'

In a remote corner of Tanzania, Essie Lawrence lives with her husband in an archaeologist's camp. One morning a chance encounter with two strangers sees her making a rash promise. When she returns home to the research base, she has a baby in her arms. Essie is to care for the little girl until the coming of the rains. And then hand her back.

The organised world of Magadi Research Camp is turned upside down. As her heart opens up to new life, Essie is drawn into the ancient wisdom of the Hadza, the last hunter-gatherer tribe in East Africa. And she is led back to memories of her own mother and her first home on the island of Tasmania, at the far end of the world. But there is a price to pay. Essie's marriage, her career - everything she's worked for - is put at risk.

On the shores of the flamingo lake, personal stories are played out alongside the Lawrences' quest to find the origins of the human species. Nightmares and dreams go hand in hand as past and present merge. What is real and what will turn to dust? And after a season of being a mother, will Essie be able to survive the hardest challenge of all? To love, and then let go .

An exquisite and heart-piercing story of one woman's bond with a baby, The Beautiful Mother will resonate with every parent, crossing time, place and culture. It is an unforgettable exploration of what it really means to be a member of the human family, revealing the deep need we all have to find our own tribe.

©2020 Katherine Scholes (P)2020 Penguin Random House Australia

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  • 07-12-2020

An ode to all things human

The search for human origins plays out alongside the survival of the species in a heart-warming, heart-breaking and surprisingly breath-taking story set against the dramatic landscape of Tanzania. Tasmanian author Katherine Scholes was born in Tanzania and her love of the country is depicted as vividly as her characters in The Beautiful Mother. It is a memorable tale that tells of archaeologist and subservient wife Essie Lawrence at the Magadi Research Camp. As the team search for the origins of our species, Essie is unexpectedly approached by the nomadic Hadza, the last hunter-gatherer tribe in East Africa. With the dry season approaching, they coerce Essie into caring for one of their orphaned babies until they return in the wet season some three months later. Suddenly a mother, Essie soon learns the power of a mother’s love while combatting the disruption and marital issues the baby’s presence evokes. As her love for the child grows, so too does her independence, feeding a growing void with many of the people around her. Her husband and distrusting other tribes both provide fuel for Essie’s personal growth and mothering instincts. Scholes delves deep into the heart of her main character, never releasing the looming eventuality that one day soon, the baby will be reclaimed by her tribe. The people around her, including her husband, friends and main colleagues, are all realised with care to both feed the story and embark on their own paths of soul-searching and personal growth. The Beautiful Mother is an ode to all things human, from our love for a child to our need to control our own destinies. Scholes never fails in her quest to deliver each of the powerful themes and personal journeys. And while the book is long, at almost 470 pages, not a page is wasted in keeping the reader engaged. The audiobook recording by Penguin Random House Australia, is read by Jessica Tovey and runs for just over sixteen-and-a-half hours. Tovey is eloquent and emotive, representing the characters well, but doesn’t deliver distinct character voices in the way that so many modern readers do. Her narration however, is both engaging and enjoyable. The Beautiful Mother may sound like a rather tedious premise on the surface but it should impress most readers who are willing to open their heart to such a story of humanity and love.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.