This is a powerful story that more people should read. It provides a window inside the Maori culture in general, and will resonate with anyone familiar with other minority cultures around the world that have faced oppression and ghettoization (And for those totally unfamiliar with such cultures, it’s even more important that you read books like this). The author shares the fictionalized story of a Maori family struggling within a ghettoized Maori community, and the trials and tribulations they face. While the story is definitely beset with extremely sad, unfortunate events and outcomes, it’s also one of hope, self-improvement, and the betterment of an entire community. The author takes a nuanced view of the situation faced by many Maoris (And ultimately other minorities in similar situations across the planet), neither blaming white (pakeha) New Zealanders nor Maori themselves entirely for their current undesirable situation, but rather providing a fair and balanced perspective on these complex issues. The author, being Maori himself, is in a prime position to provide just such a credible perspective, and certainly doesn’t disappoint. The author’s message is one that more people, be they Maori or minority in general, or white and/or from a more dominant culture, ought to hear and learn from.
My only real issue with the book is the stream of consciousness style of writing. I understand the author’s desire to convey a natural, free flowing style of storytelling that gets inside the heads of the characters, but I ultimately believe that it’s possible, indeed preferable, to use more standard writing formats to achieve this result. The use of non-standard Maori and New Zealand dialects in the story is of course essential, and I support the authors choice in using them. But those dialects could’ve been used in a standard writing format without the need for a stream of consciousness writing style. In my view, standard writing formats exist for a reason, and stream of consciousness is simply a style of writing that shouldn’t exist (Outside of private brainstorming sessions and journal entries). Whether it’s an upperclass English woman like Virginia Woolf, or a working class Maori Kiwi like Alan Duff, stream of consciousness is just a terrible form of writing that leads to confusion, frustration, and misunderstanding on the part of the reader. No matter how good the story or the writing is, readers will put down a book written in stream of consciousness in a hot minute, and many will never pick it up again (I’m one of the brave few who trudged through it and read the whole book in this case, but it was hard at times. I still can’t get through “Mrs Dalloway”.). It’s just an awful writing style. By all means, please use colloquial dialects, words, and flavors in one’s writing. Those are wonderful things. But stream of consciousness is NOT necessary. Writers should always avoid such a terrible style of writing. I recommend that the author write a new edition of this book where he abandons stream of consciousness and switches to a standard writing form.