Manawa, the town in this novel, is thinly disguised real life Rangataua, on the volcanic plateau where my family has owned an old house for the last 50 years. I love Rangataua and often come here to write. (I am here while typing these words.) Some of the odd-ball characters originated years earlier as short stories for radio. Heartland is quirky and fun – a love letter to Rangataua.
Heart-warming and compulsive reading, this is an entertaining, lively and moving novel from one of New Zealand’s favourite authors.
‘Donny Mac was released at Eastertime, about a month before Pansy Holloway, also known as Nightshade, disappeared for good.’
After a short stint in prison on trumped-up charges, the loveable simpleton Donny Mac returns to the house left to him by his grandfather in the small settlement of Manawa, in the shadow of Mt Ruapehu. Now inhabited by a handful of colourful locals, the once prosperous milling town is only bustling in the ski season when the out-of-towners arrive.
Awaiting Donny’s return is the drunken and pregnant Nightshade, who claims he is the father. Donny’s friends keep watch anxiously: the lace-making Bull Howie; Vera who can be seen every evening wheeling Bull’s dinner in a pram down to his house in her own version of meals on wheels; farmer George Kingi and his fey four-year-old daughter Lovey; and the strange elderly sisters who have moved in next door. Also watching is the Virgin Tracey, a sixteen-year-old hiding out in one of the abandoned houses, with her own tiny baby.
When an accident threatens to put Donny back into prison, he and the Virgin Tracey come up with a solution to cover it up. But can the secret remain hidden?