Fishing for Maui
Fishing for Maui is a contemporary novel that follows a family in crisis in Aotearoa. It is New Zealand writer Isa Pearl Ritchie’s second novel. She lives in Wellington with one child.
The novel follows the extended members of a family based in Hamilton – grandmother, mother, the four children, a girlfriend, a partner/boyfriend. Each chapter changes voice accordingly, offering perspective. The main themes of the novel are around the different approaches/beliefs in relation to food and mental illness. Fishing for Maui follows each member of the family as they rediscover themselves on a journey that threatens to tear them apart or bring them closer than ever.
The link in the book is based around food, of which the author is fond of, and in particular challenges the thoughts around the beliefs of food and the ever-changing fads and diet developments. The issue of mental health is broached cleverly, so that the reader feels like it is suddenly there, only to realise they missed the earlier clues, much like many experiences in life.
Ritchie’s writing is strengthened by the different perspectives from the changing narrators, offering insight into the actions of the characters and casting morals and ethics into the spotlight. She uses a lot of short sentences and this offers a realistic insight into the thoughts of her characters. There are frequent powerful and rich metaphors. She has included the narratives from extended family too, a girlfriend and another partner, and features the grandmother only a couple of times. This has the effect of providing alternative perception and supporting the narrative’s of the main characters without detracting from their journeys, after all there is always different sides to a story!
I found Ritchie’s work to be inspiring, particularly around expressing the thoughts of the characters without using dialogue. I also draw inspiration from her description of the setting in ensuring it is without a doubt Aotearoa and its unique features.
“I watch the fantails dance through the trees, hear the beating wings of the kereru overhead and they remind me of my journey.”
Fishing for Maui is a unique modern perspective that addresses the perils of social media, the increasing mental illness crisis and ‘the system’, and the increasing focus and obsession on food beliefs. This copy that Isa inscribed for me will take its place on my bookshelf.
Ritchie, I P. (2018). Fishing for Maui. Te Ra Aroha Press, Wellington.