by Bronwyn Elsmore
A middle-aged widow returns to her hometown of Waimamae to re-connect with old friends and family. Most of them have in fact died, but they populate Mary’s memories to a powerful degree and she feels them to be more real, and more significant, than the acquaintances she has left behind. Her best friend Ana, however, has not died but has unaccountably disappeared. And Ana’s wise and influential grandmother Kui, from beyond the grave, is urging Mary to find her and call her home where she belongs.
What follows is the back-story of the young Mary’s friendship with Ana throughout their schooldays. It is a warm and evocative story, full of misty memories of simpler, sunnier times when children skipped rope, biked around the neighbourhood and went to the movies once a month. It was the era of the Monday washday, home-cooked family meals and the outside dunny, although by the time Mary returns some modern improvements have been made.
She is content to settle down to bottling plums and talking to Ana’s younger cousin, who is convinced that Ana will never return but can’t, or won’t, reveal why. Mary’s occasional efforts to find her friend through the internet tell her nothing she doesn’t already know. The book is, however, more about the nostalgic return to Mary’s girlhood, complete with lingering descriptions of the lives and times, the manners and attitudes, and of course the people of Waimamae of half a century past.
The pace of life is leisurely, and this is reflected in Bronwyn Elsmore’s treatment of the narrative. It is essentially a gentle story, with a little mystery in the background. Whether the past will be revealed is another matter. Readers who remember their golden childhoods will love it.
Author: Bronwyn Elsmore
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