Jean Croker Petke

Truth in Writing

Truth in Writing

Back in the 90’s I read Marlo Morgan’s Mutant Message Down Under. It’s the story of the author’s trek across Australia’s Outback with a tribe of Aborigines. I still remember thinking as I read, “What would I have done had I been in her circumstances? Would I have survived such things?” The narrative was chilling and memorable and disturbing. I’ve never forgotten that book.

Recently I found Mutant Message From Forever, also by Marlo Morgan, in the free bin at McKay’s so I snatched it up. The back cover states: Morgan’s long-awaited second novel is a tale of . . . Aboriginal twins separated at birth and the search for roots that reunites them from opposite sides of the globe.” While it sounded intriguing, it was a yawn by mid-point. The significance and meaning of people and events felt contrived. Unlike Morgan’s first book, this one is already fading into oblivion.

Because I had opposite experiences with these two books, I did some online inquiry about the author. I discovered her Outback trek with the Aborigines couldn’t have happened — and didn’t happen — and the book was filled with errors about Australia and Aboriginal life. All this time I’ve believed her story was true. How had Morgan duped me into believing her story actually happened?

I reread the jacket copy and introductory pages. In the foreword she writes, “This was written after the fact and inspired by actual experience . . . it is sold as a novel to protect the small tribe of Aborigines. . . I speak only for one small Outback nation referred to as the Wild People or The Ancient Ones.” The book jacket says this is “the fictional account of an American woman’s spiritual odyssey. . .From the first day of her adventure, Morgan is challenged by the physical requirements of the journey.” Certainly sounds like a factual account of a real experience, fictionalized only to protect individuals.

I was not a particularly discerning reader back then, so even if I had read the marketing and introductory material, I could have easily missed truths, hints that this was indeed a novel, which were veiled in slick language. However, my oversight does not deny the spiritual journey and learnings that Morgan personally shares with her readers.

I’m disappointed in the author and publisher: They both tried hard to market this book as nonfiction, when in fact it was a novel. I took the bait and didn’t question. I appreciate books that state on the cover: “A Novel” or “A Memoir.”

I’m disappointed in myself for either not reading, or discerning the meaning of, the fine print before I read the book. Truth and honesty are my core values, so for me it’s critical to know whether a book is fiction or nonfiction from the very beginning. I can be equally engaged in either genre, but I don’t like being mislead.

Today’s lesson: Read the fine print — before you buy and before you read.

Until next Tuesday. . .





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