The apprentice witnesser by Bren MacDibble

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The Apprentice Witnesser by Bren MacDibble transports readers into a captivating world set in the year 2072; where life is markedly different from our present reality. In this intricately crafted narrative, MacDibble paints a poignant picture of a society grappling with the aftermath of widespread disease, and survival is no longer a guarantee for communities who cling to simpler ways of life in scattered Australian villages.

At the heart of the story young orphan Bastienne Scull, is taken under the wing of elder Lodyma Darsey. Basti finds herself apprenticed to the art of witnessing miracles; something she takes very seriously. Together they use these skills to get food and money to survive. During each night market, Eld Darsey shares stories of miracles, while Basti sells peanuts to locals, eager to hear a good tale.

Their village is absent of many males, due to susceptibility to all the disease. While they live out in the wilderness, the villages are made up predominantly of women and children. Before Lodyma took in Basti, she had lost her husband and eldest son to illness, then sent her younger son, Osmin, into the hills, hoping he would survive. But, left utterly devastated that he has never returned, she is heartbroken and empty.

However, the plot takes an intriguing twist when two young boys come to the village and ask Lodyma to witness a miracle. Setting out on this voyage, Lodyma and Basti have no idea this journey will turn their world upside down forever.

The Apprentice Witnesser is another unique tale which encompasses MacDibble's masterful skill as she weaves themes of grief, hope and the power of human connection. Through Basti’s eyes, readers are invited to contemplate the enduring power of little wonders, making this novel a captivating and thought-provoking read. Another great middle grade novel to be enjoyed and pondered over.

Themes: Family, Communities, Perseverance, Relationships, Courage, Connections, Societal complexities.

Michelle O'Connell