Walking away from your family’s religion is not a straightforward business. There are warps and wefts you must delicately extract yourself from as you sift through what you want and don’t want from your heritage. In The God of No Good, Sita Walker has crafted a beautiful tapestry of stories from the lives of her parents and grandparents as she wrestles with doubt and the Bahà’í religion with which she was raised.
Each chapter jumps around to various places and points in history: how her parents met, vignettes from her childhood and portraits of her grandparents. Intertwined is a new love story, emerging from the wreckage of a former marriage. When Walker is having a panic attack, her ex comes over, and she writes: ‘Here we are – ex-pats returning to a war-torn homeland. The buildings have crumbled and the landscape is pockmarked and ravaged by the fray.’
Some of her descriptions are so achingly beautiful that I marked the pages to come back to them. There’s a vivid scene with her students in high school English who hang back to ask if she’s OK as she admits to her recent separation from her husband. The dialogue is so lively, it feels as though you’re watching a film.
The flavour of the book is a beautifully fragrant cup of chai. Some of the memories are reconstructed like dreams, and Walker writes at the end that they’ve been poured through several sieves: ‘fading memories, second-hand accounts and my own poetic imagination.’
Walker’s intertwined stories evoke the cultural melting pot that a child of immigrant parents encounters upon arriving in Australia. Nineties cultural references, like watching Tank Girl to reading about Diana and Charles in The Women’s Weekly are blended with her cultural origins and Bahà’í practices like praying to God or ‘oomancy‘ – moving evil curses into an egg and smashing it (leading to my favourite line, ‘a yellowy firework of vanquished wickedness’). As Walker says herself, ‘most of this book is absolutely true’. Even if some of the stories are sifted through fading memories, there is a kernel of truth in them. The contract the memoirist makes with the reader feels satisfying.
This is Walker’s first book; she has previously been shortlisted in the SBS Emerging Writers Competition for her story, Love in the Time of Grandmother. She is certainly a writer to keep an eye on, and this book is a treat – a beautiful blend that you feel has been brewing for a long time.
The God of No Good by Sita Walker
Publisher: Ultimo Press
Publication: February 2023