Book Review: Adventurer at Heart, by Nathan Fa’avae

cv_adventurer_at_heartAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

OK, I’ll admit it. Before reading this book, I had no idea who Fa’avae was. Not a clue. But then, his world is still something of an unknown quantity to many of us. Adventure racing (also called expedition racing) is a multi-disciplinary team sport involving orientation skills, usually over an unmarked wilderness course. Races go can be anywhere from two hours up to two weeks in length. and also involve a range of principle disciplines like trekking, mountain biking, and paddling. Some could even include climbing, abseiling, horse riding or skiing. Premier events, including the World Championships, of which Fa’avae was a three year champion, involve mixed gender teams of four racers over a number of days. Teams can rest up, but there’s no suspension of the clock, making it a grueling sport of mental and physical endurance and skill.

At the height of his career Fa’avae was certainly a heavyweight in the world of adventure racing. From loser to top adventure racer Fa’avae’s story is a humble yet proud account. Growing up as probably the only Pacific Island juvenile delinquent in Nelson he was, in his own words, a ‘little sh*t’ – petty crime, wagging school, the whole shebang! But, as the book reveals, things changed and after many failures, Fa’avae grew to take on many challenges. He has qualified for the Olympics, been an Outward Bound instructor and won three World Championships plus a stack of other titles.

This is the perfect book for anyone who wants a bit of armchair action. It’s a simple personal account, but a warm telling of his life to date (Fa’avae is only in his mid 40’s), highlighting a competitive career that began with his first attempt in 1991, as an 18-year-old, at competing at the Speights Coast to Coast Longest Day event and concluding with his swansong − captaining Team Seagate to another victory in the Iron Bound Challenge adventure race in Malaysia. That event was in October 2015. So the ink on this book is still pretty damp.

Don’t rule this book out as yet another sports hero story either. It’s not just about the wins or the endurance, although running a team in a six day event over mountains, rivers and tropical forests with virtually no sleep is pretty intense. No. The most enduring irony is that one of the world’s most respected adventure racers also suffers from a condition that’s completely at odds with the demands of the sport. Halfway through his career, Fa’avae was diagnosed with an atrial flutter − which is basically an abnormal heart rhythm, he tells us. The drama builds when he casually adds that corrective surgery in 2001 didn’t quite go to plan and unexpectedly escalates to atrial fibrillation (that’s the ‘code red stuff, folks). Subsequent procedures in 2005 should have corrected all that and Fa’avae went on to lead the Seagate team to their first Adventure Racing World Championship title in France.

Fa’avae actually began this book about 5 years ago when he first considered giving it away, or at least winding down, and was planning to make a go of the after dinner circuit. He actually shelved the idea after making an initial attempt before eventually picking it up again. It was only the untimely death of his mother that made him rethink the writing gig. He reckons it’s best to get it all down, you never know what’s around the corner. And what an adventure!

As well as telling his story, Fa’avae tells us some of the skills needed to inspire young adults, especially those who went to the Outward Bound courses, and the joys of fatherhood. Fa’avae’s book ticks the box as a damn good inspirational read, and he is a great role model for Pacific Island young men (and all young men in general). I hope he comes to my town one day, as I’d love to hear him speak. I’m googling Adventure Racing now – does it play on Sky Sport?!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Nathan Fa’avae: Adventurer at Heart 
by Nathan Fa’avae
Published by Potton & Burton
ISBN 9781927213629

Book Review: Tropic of Guile, by Sue McCauley

This book is available in all formats, from selected bookstores and online.
We have a hardback copy of this book to give away – check our Facebook page for details.

Sue McCauley is a cv_tropic_of_guilerespected New Zealand writer. I have read a number of her books over the years and always enjoyed them. Tropic of Guile was no exception.

I found it very hard to put down – the story enthralled me. When I find a book like this, no matter how many pages or how small the print is, I just mow through the pages.

The story starts in New Zealand: Christchurch to be precise. Hannah arrived in New Zealand for her OE from Portland, USA, working as a barmaid. She then met Alexander Louis Mason, who is close to Hannah’s father’s age. They have two small children, Liam and then Amy. Alex, a businessman of some wealth, decides to move the family to Fiji to start a new business venture. After being granted a 7-year-residency, they rent out their house in Christchurch to start a new life in Fiji. Fiji has been in some turmoil because of unrest and the government being over thrown by Brigadier Rabuka.

Alex loves the South Sea Islands and as a result they have, as a family, holidayed in most of them: Samoa, Rarotonga, Tahiti and Fiji, on a number of occasions. Alex has promised the Fijian government he is going to bring much needed jobs and tourism back to Fiji by building an underwater aquarium. Tourists fled Fiji after the coup and even with cut-price flights and packages they are slow to come back to the holiday paradise.

The family arrives in Nadi just 5 months after the coup. The airport is lined with armed soldiers. Kaikoso Island, where they are headed to set up their base, has been under European ownership since whaling days, and is largely undeveloped. Their home for the next 7 years was to be a house on four hectares of beach front land.

The story that unfolds is in one sense fascinating and in another shocking. We discover that Alex is planning to separate Hannah through whatever means he can from their children. The political turmoil in Fiji helps his cause because of a corrupt and archaic legal system. Mental and physical cruelty are part of his ploy to rid himself of his wife and gain complete control of their children. My heart pounded at times for Hannah, willing her to either shoot Alex or somehow find a way to win and get out of this tawdry ugly marriage, fighting for her own life and fighting for the life of her children.

The friendships that Hannah makes as a result of what unfolds are what help hold her up during the roughest times. These friends are Fijian and Fijian Indian, as well as ex-pats like herself.

Sue McCauley in my opinion is a genius – I just love the way she uses words to paint a very realistic picture. The pain and outrage I felt on Hannah’s behalf felt very real at times.

Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Tropic of Guile
by Sue McCauley
Published by Xlibris
ISBN Hardback: 9781483683195
ISBN Paperback: 9781483683188
ISBN13 eBook: 9781483683201