CHAPPY by Patricia Grace

You know when you start reading a Patricia Grace book that you are in the hands of a master. From the first words, there is just this wonderful sense of being enveloped and absorbed in what you are reading. Not only because she is such a New Zealand writer, so deeply in tune with her roots, the land and the people, but because she writes from the heart, achingly so of people and their relationships with each other. It is a wonderful experience to read her.

This is such a modern New Zealand story, about family, the land, the search for identity and belonging, the strong tug and pull for home that any NZer who has lived elsewhere knows and feels deep inside. 21 year old Daniel does not know this longing, as he has spent all his life living outside NZ with his expat parents. He has come to live for a time with his grandmother Oriwia in her small New Zealand town. Her family, like most Maori, is deeply entrenched in the local area, close links to each other and to the land. Her brother Aki, also elderly, lives nearby and between the two of them, Daniel learns his own roots, where he has come from, and the strange story of his grandfather Chappy. In his younger days, Aki was a seaman, and one voyage found himself as an unwitting accomplice in the smuggling of Chappy, a Japanese stowaway fleeing from the Japanese invasion of China in the early 1930s, into New Zealand. Given the name Chappy by Aki, not knowing a word of English let alone Maori, he is embraced by the small rural Maori community he finds himself in. Marrying, having children, working, contributing his skills to the wealth of his family, Chappy ends up having a very fortunate life, although it has its challenges along the way - WWII and internment; the colder climate and the health issues he came to NZ with; his guilt at leaving his family in Japan. Moving between NZ and Hawaii, across three generations of family, Daniel hears the story of Oriwia, Aki and Chappy, and in turn himself. Such a good story, such a treat to read such great writing. 


This is just such a lovely story, I enjoyed it so much, laugh out loud funny, full of interesting and real characters. Miles O'Malley is a thirteen year old boy, who lives with his parents in a coastal community where everyone knows each other. There is an eccentric elderly lady neighbour, a weird cult up the road, interfering busy bodys, secret crush, hilarious best friend. This was such a surprising read, and despite the great reviews and comments on the covers, I still wasn't sure if it would grab me or not. Miles has lived all his life close to the tide line and so is intimately connected to the environment around him. He loves roaming the beach at low tide, all hours of the day and night, collecting shells, fish, unusual creatures, seaweeds. One night he comes across a giant, and I mean giant - 37 feet - squid. Just lying there. This discovery unleashes a media storm, and thrusts Miles into a limelight he never sought. Newspaper, radio and TV journalists all want a piece of him, the local cult think he is some sort of messiah, his best friend the over sexed Phelps sees Miles in a new light and learns a few things about himself in the process, the love of his life is going through a serious crisis, the local psychic Florence delivers ominous warnings about the impending high tide. Somehow Miles manages to manoeuvre himself around all this drama, maintains his integrity, doesn't lose the essence of his thirteen year old self, and tells a great little story in the process. It is a coming of age tale, as appealing to adults as it would be to young adults/teenagers. Just magic. 


Oh my goodness, awesome read! I wish that I had this to read during recent holidays instead of some of the other books I read. I could have sat and sat and just read and read, instead of having to constantly get up and attend to stuff. So much going on in this 800 plus page door stop, it was an absolute whirlwind going on all the time. Just as entertaining are some of the online reviews - people hating it! For the purists out there, have to agree that it is populist fiction in the same vein as The Da Vinci Code, but to prevent it being too ridiculous it has much more of Robert Ludlum or Frederick Forsyth written all over it lifting it to a higher level than Dan Brown. And there is going to be movie, and there is a Facebook page!

This is a story of our times - Islam vs Christianity, Arab world vs America world, displaced populations, 9/11, terrorism, revenge, greed, murder. And this is what keeps it grounded in reality and makes it so compelling. At its heart this is a story of two men  - Pilgrim and the Saracen. Pilgrim is a retired American secret agent so far off the grid that officially he does not exist. There is plenty of his back story in this which could be a movie all on its own. Parallel to Pilgrim's narration of his story is that of the  Saracen, Saudi Arabian by birth, witness all his life to war, destruction, murder, terrorism, takes it upon himself to single handedly destroy America in a daring, devastating and deadly plan. It falls upon the heavily loaded shoulders of Pilgrim to stop him. At the same time, Pilgrim has been called into to help solve a gruesome murder that bears the hallmarks of things that only he would know about.

It is fabulous stuff, and I just did not want it to end. I had no idea how it would end, who would be living and who would not. Grab it and read it.