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Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

A startling tale of a Maori family in the 1980s told by the family in an intriguing mix of internal monologue and stream of consciousness. It is hard to read if your life has been effortlessly more prosperous than the Heke’s; and the prose style can be almost physically hard to read if you aren’t familiar with the undereducated New Zealand English dialect.

The Heke family are lost, it is in part the effect of colonisation; so much of their own culture and heritage has been lost, and they lost themselves along the way. Beth Heke has the unfortunate realisation of this loss, but she too is lost and stuck in a cycle of neglect and benign abuse. Until her daughter Grace takes her own life, and Beth starts to look for a better way.

It is a heartbreaking tale that is all too familiar, and relatable across the globe; though with a unique kiwi feel. Best read aloud (even just to yourself) because some of the dialect is phonetic and makes no sense until you do read aloud. But well worth the 5 stars I am giving it.

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