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. 

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