by Mark Holloway
First up, I have to declare that I am not a practicing Christian so will inevitably view this book in a different way to those who are strongly engaged with Christianity.
I became interested in the book because I wanted to explore another perspective on this country’s troubled race relations. Conversations with God on colonization was definitely an alternative view. It reminded me of how difficult it is to articulate the complexity of cultural interaction from first encounter to the present time. Add more recent immigrants and the complexity intensifies.
Mark Holloway, as author, has structured the book in an interesting way. The structure allows a supposed ill-informed protagonist to question the big questions of the day with an All-Knowing Divine Being. This removes responsibility for attitudes expressed by the protagonist. And because God is All-Knowing it also validates God’s explanations.
The structure reminded me of metaphysical poetry where a lover addresses an absent loved one. The addressee is elevated to a state of perfection and the one doing the addressing to a state of subservience.
By using this as a device the writer separates the two key speakers into an All Knowing (God) and a Not Knowing (mortal) narrator.
Occasionally I found myself thinking that the mortal voice sounded like the God voice. This gave the impression that the human voice was, in fact, coming to his own conclusions. Not a bad thing, I dare to suggest. However, this contrivance reminded me that the God voice and the human voice were, in fact, authored by the same writer.
On other occasions, the human voice sounded apologetic and almost child-like.
For example: ‘But God, when Pākehā see this conversation they will say that I have made it up because…(142). In this instance they are discussing the gnarly problem of Maori crime statistics.
On other occasions God’s answers sometimes sound like a parent chiding a child.
An example of this is: ‘Who on earth are you whites to think that a brown mind cannot think and dream like yours?’ (146)
My overall reaction to this book was a sense that more could have been done to delve beyond the superficial and to explore in greater depth the complexities behind New Zealand’s colonization story. However, as a conversation between an inferior and a superior being I expect that there is little opportunity to go deeper. After all, God’s answers are final and ultimately not to be questioned.
Author: Mark Holloway
Publisher: Freedom Assignment