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  • Published: 30 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781761349218
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $24.99

Graft

Motherhood, Family and a Year on the Land




** LONGLISTED FOR THE 2024 STELLA PRIZE **

A gorgeously written reflection, set in Tasmania, on motherhood, farming, nature and home.

In my mind I walk over the land. I run my hands through the grass as if it were the hair on my head. I dig my fingers into the dirt as if the soil were the crust of my skin.

Combining pages of her diary, kept through lambing seasons on a wool Merino farm on the east coast of Tasmania, with observations on the world around her, MacKellar writes a stunning thanksgiving on place, mothers, and the ways we cannot escape the elemental laws of nature. Her love for and knowledge of the land on which she lives, the lambs she cares for, and the birds she adores - illustrated in stunning line drawings through the book - are writ large. You will want to leap into the pages and walk beside Maggie as she saves ewes, lambs, tends to her beloved horses and dogs, and considers the challenges and joys of motherhood and farming.

Susan Duncan on When It Rains: 'An unforgettable story of love and courage that inspires even as it breaks your heart.'

  • Published: 30 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781761349218
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Maggie MacKellar

Maggie MacKellar lectures in Australian and cross-cultural comparative history at the University of Sydney. In 1996 she spent three months hiking, camping and kayaking in the Alaskan wilderness with the National Outdoor Leadership School, which provided the inspiration for this book. She lives in Sydney with her two children. Core of My Heart, My Country is her first book. MacKellar has since published her second book Strangers in a Foreign Land.

Also by Maggie MacKellar

See all

Praise for Graft

Stunning poetics ... with great compassion and humility, MacKellar brilliantly interrogates notions of motherhood, animal husbandry and our relationship with the land ... GRAFT might be the new benchmark for Australian nature writing.

Judges' report, Stella Prize

In Graft, MacKellar asks us to pay attention to the world, in all its splendour and its darkness. With her very being she models how to truly look and what it means to take part. Grafting together thoughts on motherhood, drought, lambing, loss, birds, sacrifice and love, MacKellar writes against erasure. There is great beauty here. Do not look away! A book of uncommon sensitivity and attentiveness. Vital and compelling.

Jessie Cole

Maggie MacKellar’s words are such a gift: tough, delicate, evocative meditative, poetic and resilient.

Sophie Cunningham

It is two works of fiction that made my hair stand on end: Graft, by Maggie MacKellar, a beautiful, poetic page turner about a year on a Tasmanian coastal sheep farm, rich and deep with observation and emotion.

Geraldine Brooks, Sydney Morning Herald Best Reads of 2023

Graft (HH) by Maggie MacKellar is an absolute standout, a beautiful account of a year on a farm, that weaves place, family and memoir.

Anna Clark, Sydney Morning Herald Best Books of 2023

The book I recommended most often this year is Maggie MacKellar’s Graft, her superbly crafted memoir of one year on her Tasmanian sheep farm, drought, loss and motherhood.

Kate Mildenhall, Sydney Morning Herald's Best Books of 2023

Graft is an often fierce, unflinching account of four seasons of a drought year on a sheep farm on Tasmania’s East Coast. What beauty it finds – and there is much beauty here too – is wrung from the difficulties the author is obliged to overcome ... Interstitial pages describe the birdlife around her. Beloved dogs run like familiars at her heels on paddock walks. Horses are not mere creatures in these pages so much as family members, sturdy scaffolds for human frailty. Such passages locate Graft in the tradition of nature writing that emerges with Thoreau and continues in such contemporary writers of place as Annie Dillard and Barry Lopez. What makes it different is that such fine noticing is braided here with the pragmatic obligations of rural life ... And as the creeks run again and the pasture returns, so too does a renewed sense of hope and purpose for the author of this brave and bittersweet book.

Geordie Williamson, Australian

To attempt to sum up this beautiful book is to do a disservice to the delicate and finely woven lattice of narrative threads that comprise it, like reducing a glimmering spider web to its geometry ... MacKellar dwells close to the earth and it seeps out through her words, inspiring one to reflect on how each of us makes our peace with living between the domestic and the wild.

Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning Herald

Poignant ... MacKellar’s prose is as clear and bracing as the bodies of water in which she loves to swim ... Her sensibilities are attuned to that beloved landscape, which has always drawn her in, rewarded her curiosity, and offered sanctuary ... MacKellar’s reflections on her mother’s life, and on the phases of motherhood, are especially moving. Graft is a deeply affecting and vital literary offering.

Readings

MacKellar’s words will resonate with every reader. This, I think, is what makes Graft such compelling reading. You don’t have to be interested in sheep farming to be captivated. It’s not so much the seasons of crutching, breeding, lambing and shearing that we engage with, vividly depicted as they are, but those of life itself, its joys and sorrows, its losses, and unexpected gains and the resilience we share with the land to endlessly renew when the drought breaks. MacKellar’s unique voice captures the sensory in every experience, from the dogs panting with delight, their ‘pink tongues bright in the still morning’, to the fruiting walnut tree with nuts that ‘seem to swell and pulse with a fluorescent glow’ to ‘the smell of sheep sweet and sour’. She doesn’t just describe, she takes us on a journey that will be remembered long after the book is closed.

Good Reading

Awards & recognition

Mark & Evette Moran Nib Literary Award

Longlisted  •  2023  •  Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award is the only national literary award of its type to be presented by a local council.

The Stella Prize

Longlisted  •  2024  •  For women and non-binary writers

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