Title: Daughter of Bad Times
Author: Rohan Wilson
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 6th May 2019
Synopsis: A suspenseful, truthful and compelling novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Roving Party.
‘What better pitch than helping the refugees of the world? Who doesn’t want to help refugees, right? The five Australian facilities are immigration detention centres, sure, but they’re also manufacturing plants. That means two revenue streams for one facility. And we also clean up our image. We’re not just a corrections company anymore-now, we’re building communities, we’re saving lives.’
Rin Braden is almost ready to give up on life after the heartbreaking death of her lover Yamaan and the everyday dread of working for her mother’s corrupt private prison company. But through a miracle Yamaan has survived.
Yamaan turns up in an immigration detention facility in Australia, trading his labour for a supposedly safe place to live. This is no ordinary facility, it’s Eaglehawk MTC, a manufactory built by her mother’s company to exploit the flood of environmental refugees.
Now Rin must find a way to free Yamaan before the ghosts of her past and a string of bad choices catch up with them both.
In its vision of the future, Daughter of Bad Times explores the truth about a growing inhumanity, as profit becomes the priority.
It’s 2075, and the world has faced, and still is facing a catastrophic climate event that has led to influxes of refugees from the Maldives and other islands and nations that have lost their homes to climate change – and have found their way to camps in Japan, Australia and America. Rin Braden’s mother is the CEO of one of the corrupt private prison companies taking advantage of the growing desperation of refugees in an eerie echoing of what is happening today, and a foreshadowing of what will come.
The refugee crisis has hit everywhere – and nobody is immune. Nations that have facilities and resources must find a way to support their citizens, and the refugees – yet as this novel shows, the people who want to genuinely help and create a better life for all, are the ones who will become targets in a dark look at how the complex system of dealing with refugees that we are experiencing today is filled with people and places only in it for profit, taking advantage of desperate people.
Rin, born in Japan but raised in America after being told her birth mother has died – and is working for her adoptive mother, Alessandra, within the prison system when she meets Yamaan, a Muslim refugee from the Maldives, whose life now consists of a series of camps in the Pacific region and Australia. Through her contact with Yamaan and other people from Japan, Rin learns that the crisis her mother has described to her much worse, and her understanding of her life, her position in society and what the refugees are going through, and the way they are being exploited for capital gain in much the same way refugees are today.
The diversity of the characters shows that the changes in climate that lead to the events of this novel will affect everyone in the world in some way, but also, that nothing will really change. The rich and powerful will stay rich and powerful, and the displaced will be powerless and desperate, forced into situations they can’t get out of, and filled with governments who promise one thing, but are telling lies the whole time. Through Rin, there is some mind of rebellion as she seeks to find Yamaan after finding out he has died – and she looks to help the refugees, find her birth mother and reject all she has known.
It is a novel about corruption, identity and finding one’s place in an ever-changing world, changes that we can see coming towards us now. Changes that are coming quickly. Changes that Rin sees she needs to try and do something about. It was interspersed with transcripts and other investigative communications – aspects that became clearer as the novel went on, yet the ending felt a little too open-ended and without a distinct result. Perhaps this was the author’s intent – to show the futility of the situation and times the characters were living in, and to show that in times like that, nothing can really be resolved properly.