Silent People: Hearing the Call of the Dodder
by Yvonne Jerrold

A review by Brenda Snodgrass for

This is about the “silent people” who live in the woods, separate and unknown by the rest of humanity. The dodders' sole purpose is to protect wildlife in its various forms, plant life including weeds, rivers and streams, and woods and forest . They are not discovered by people because they can camouflage themselves into any tree or the surrounding foliage. They call our species the man ape, and ostracize any member that cross-breeds with a human. These hybrids are forced to live in our world and they are the people who never actually “fit into” our society;. Those strange people that isolate themselves , that try not to ever socialize, the misfits of our world because they are trapped between dual realities, “humanity or the life of a dodder.”

The dodder is also a plant name. So the saying goes ‘He who finds the root of the dodder will become possessed of boundless wealth and of the power of invisibility’ (George Watt 1883)

The story is told in a first person narrative by “Hebe”, the woman destined to be their protector who finds herself prevaricating in attempts to dissuade progressive intrusions into this idealistic surrounding. The “riverboy” is a dodder. She first met the “riverboy” during her summer forays as a child visiting her maternal Grandmother. Hebe keeps her memories of those magical times buried deep within her heart and mind.

Hebe had worked in the illustration department of the Botanical Gardens, but was released upon the acquisition of computer graphics. She then accepted a part-time job at the local university as a student counsellor . They mistakenly thought she was a good listener because she never spoke up about anything. One day after a session with a young girl who had trouble verbalizing her problems, Hebe begins to think about the “riverboy” This happened without prompting by any sight or smell or conscious thought. Her mind becomes consumed with memories of the “riverboy” and the urge to return to visit her childhood haunts.

Before Hebe’s departure she makes contact with her sister Maddy and her Dad, a scientist. Both Maddy and her dad never understand or relate well to Hebe’s manner and thinking. They both think she is daft as Mummy who ran away from the family because she felt stifled. Their claim is that Hebe was adopted and she believes them. It really wasn’t of importance anyway, as she was completely her own person:
"Not that it mattered what Dad’s friends thought. I had no intention of telling them anything. Even if they did come to believe in the dodder, they would never look at it the way I did, as a precious gift to be cherished, but only as phenomenon to be investigated or perhaps as a means of making money. I found both prospects equally abhorrent."
So Hebe returns to her beloved “Dodder’s Well” where the people do not acknowledge her presence nor answer her queries. She completely immerses herself in the woods and streams, and helps her grandmother garden. She also attempts to capture the beauty of the plant life by drawing pictures, which has been her gift all along. As her thoughts become tangled when she is drawing, she finds herself doodling over the completed drawings, leaving her finished project ruined. At one point her fingers actually cramp and she is unable to even hold the pencil. Her mind gets so raveled you begin to think she is losing her mind. She can’t seem to get a hold of herself as she unsuccessfully looks for the ever elusive “riverboy”.

She later realizes that the pictures her Dad had requested weren’t being completed because she was scared of revealing something about the area and didn’t want tourists trodding all over the vegetation or disturbing the “Dodders”. She also discovers she was not cut out for city living with all the noise, crowding and pollution . She belonged in “Dodders Well”, where she could hear the birds sing, watch the river flow and listen to the special music that the woods played.

Very good production values, the cover is a beautiful, lush glen which is so appropriate as it relates to the subject matter. This book is written in the manner of Tolkien, and keeps the reader wondering how this is all going to work out. Jerrold gets her thoughts across, even considering her choice of story line.

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