A Runner’s Guide to Rakiura

By Jessica Howland Kany

A Runner's Guide to Rakiura by Jessica Howland Kany

I picked up this book last week after I was forced to stop reading my book due to a printing error. It was a book that I had seen multiple times at the bookshop, but hadn’t picked up to see what it was about. Boy am I glad I did this time and decided to buy it. This is a wonderful book that I would recommend to all.

The beginning of the book is it’s weakest part. We are introduced to Maudie as she is making her way to Rakiura Stewart Island. To begin with I wasn’t really sure if I liked Maudie or was much interested in her story – she seemed to be not much more than a half-drunk millenial, though there were snippets about her that made me interested to learn her backstory. Mostly, I was more interested in Tuku’s story. Plus the regular Steward Island News columns that at times made me chuckle.

All of this is a roundabout way of offering my most sincere apologies for any dismay caused by last month’s article entitled Presbyterian Church Christmas Working Bee. Unfortunately, somewhere between the desk and the printer the last line of text was rudely cut off a syllable into the word gingerbread. It should have read “All welcome, we will be giving away a heap of gingerbread houses lovingly made by the Sunday School students at the end of the evening.”

Apologies to the good people of the Presbyterian Church and to any disappointed gin-loving attendees.

But as I continued, I was getting more and more caught up in the characters, the treasure hunt and the oddly profound statements scattered through.

“The truth is the war killed them. It killed a thousand thousand people in the trenches of Europe and Africa and the Pacific and all over the show, and then it did another whole heap of killing that’s not in the history books. My grandparents’ names might as well be up on that memorial down the waterfront, because they never got over loosing their boy, and if they didn’t have me to raise I reckon they would have died a spell sooner. I’m not saying I saved their lives. I just prolonged their lives and if you’ve been in the Golden Noodle in Invercargill and seen the crayfish in the tank you know that’s no great favour.”

Shortly into the book, we find out about two cousins that were raised together: Innis and Tuku. They went off together to fight in World War Two and only Tuku returned. He came back with a large box that he wouldn’t let people anywhere near, and he bought land – so starting the rumours that he had brought treasure back with him. In the intervening years, there have been many treasure hunters looking for the buried treasure. And a lot of theories. Maudie has travelled to Rakiura to run the trails and write a book for runners, however she soon gets caught up with the idea of treasure and starts trying to solve the mystery. To find the treasure, Maudie must unravel the truth about the past and find clues that have been hidden in plain sight. Between this and the passages from the past, we have our questions answered about much more than just the treasure. Though be warned, some answers are incredibly sad.

(Wow, how many times can I say “treasure” in one paragraph 😆)

While the beginning of the book was a little shaky for me, I found it just kept improving, and the last 150 or so pages I read straight through – not wanting to put the book down and wanting to know what happened, why and how. This is a brilliant debut. I have just realised after I typed this, that it is what is said on the back of the book too, but I’m leaving my statement unchanged because it is true. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. It’s definitely a book that I will read again. You should track down a copy and read it too.

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