I was asked to review this book by the author, a Canadian living and writing in Taumarunui, a small town in the middle of the North Island. A town perhaps not unlike Te Kauhanga, the fictional town in this novel. This is the author's second novel. I actually had a choice of any of the three novels he has published. I chose this one because of the interesting and diverse sounding characters in it. I was not disappointed.

One of the suburbs of this town is Taumata, climbing the slopes of a hill, of which the centre is an enormous tree, absolutely huge tree. Legend has that this tree is one of the legs of Tane Mahuta, Maori God of the forests, and it has a special place in the life of the town and the people who live there. The locals call the tree Taumata, it is the icon of the town, revered, a place of peace and quiet, the site of the town's  playground. It has been there, quite simply, for ever.

The characters who live close to Taumata are who this book is about, their interactions with each other and with the tree and its park. Montreal Perec is Canadian, from Nova Scotia and has lived in the house nicknamed the Lighthouse for thirty years. He goes for a walk around the town the same day every year; the rest of the time he remains in his house. He is a cartographer and is convinced he has at his fingertips the last resting place for a huge treasure that disappeared from his Nova Scotia ancestors. His only human relationship is an on line one, with a fellow treasure hunter who goes by the name of BloodyLegend45.  Then there is Sharon, who works in the local council office. She is admired and desired by many, but is a secret hoarder who lives in absolute squalor. This sad state of affairs relates back to her employment as an archivist. Stanley is the third main character in this story. He has an obsession with straight lines that rules the way he lives his life. He even walks through properties to maintain his straight line progress rather than walking around the street corner, He is constantly falling in and out of love with various attractive women living in the town, and slowly finds his barriers falling away as a result.

All of these characters have space and how they live in it, how it affects their souls at the core of their  hearts and souls. As we know space is an ever moving continuum, as it is in this story, as the characters find themselves constantly challenged by the events and people in their daily lives. With the tree at their centre.

I found myself quite engaged by the quirkiness of the characters, and how they manage what is going on around them.  There is great writing here, very enjoyable and fun to read. I think the writer really enjoyed writing large sections of this. His characters are well developed, real sounding people, even if a bit odd. But I did find some of the story line a little far fetched, as my very unimaginative mind set does not do fantasy/surreal/supernatural too well. So I really did not fully get sections in the latter third of the book with the strange appearance and subsequent disappearance of a homeless man; the cartographer finally losing the plot completely, and varying degrees of chaos taking place in the town.

However, despite the oddness that permeates many New Zealand novels, I did quite like it. Small town New Zealand - there is something very familiar and comfortable in reading about communities most of us have either lived in or have close ties to.

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