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If life is like a box of chocolates as Forrest Gump says, then a good box of chocolates will have something for everyone, and a few surprises. Huia Short Stories 11 is a good box of chocolates – I think readers will find something within that will engage them, and it won’t be the same thing for every reader.
Authors published in the anthology are finalists from the 2015 Pikihuia Awards for Māori writers, with short stories written in both Te Reo Māori and English, and also novel extracts. The topics, themes and writing styles are diverse, as you might expect with 19 pieces written by 15 authors.
I can only read very basic Te Reo Māori, and unfortunately that isn’t enough for me to be able to read the handful of stories that are written in Te Reo, so I will have to leave those for another reviewer.
Some of the stories are light of heart; ‘Kingdom of Maisey’ by Aaron Ure had me laughing at loud as the narrator slowly succumbed to the will of a household invader. Others are pretty heavy; the judgement that is ignorantly heaped upon the narrator of ‘Tired Eyes’ by Anya Ngawhare made me cringe; the despair felt by the job seeker in ‘The Job’ by Lauren Keenan will resonate with many people who’ve had to negotiate their way through an unforgiving job market; ‘A Picnic with the Bears’ by K-T Harrison is a reminder that all may not be what it seems.
Some of the stories are hard to read. This is not a criticism; the stories need to be told. Stories like ‘A Picnic with the Bears’ and ‘Aroha’, by Ann French, are going to hurt the heart of all but the hardest readers, and ‘Old Totara’ by Robert MacDonald was also an emotional read. ‘Hands of Time’, Ann French’s other story in the anthology, started sad, but offered more explicit hope.
So, as far as boxes of chocolates go, this anthology isn’t just soft centres. Some of the stories will give you something to chew on. Some will make you smile with recognition, and some will make you cry. But they are all worth tasting, you may just find something new that you like.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
Huia Short Stories 11
Published by Huia Publishing