Dogside Story is set at the end of the last millennium, and there’s unrest in the whanau. Te Rua, a young man with a life that he likes - he’s got his own little house up in the bush, he fishes for what he needs and for what the whanau needs - comes to realise that he needs to do more. He needs to claim his daughter Kid (Kiri) in order to get her away from The Two - sisters Babs and Amaria - who have raised Kiri from a baby.
They are, however, not kind women. They’re not kind to Kiri - leaving her home alone (she’s 10) and forcing her to cook and clean for them.
When Kiri is injured, Rua realises that it’s time for him to step up, and be the parent that Kiri needs, even though it means bringing secrets to light that the whanau have kept for 10 years.
He’s been reluctant before, thinking that it should be up to the kaumatua to deal with the Two, and to get Kiri away from them. However, once Rua acknowledges what happened 10 years ago in a meaningful way, he knows it’s up to him.
But the sisters don’t want to let Kiri go. There’s something else festering in Dogside - but what is it?
I have to confess, I don’t read as much New Zealand fiction as I should. That’s doubly true for Maori literature, so A More Diverse Universe at http://www.aartichapati.com/ meant I had no excuse.
I picked up Dogside Story when I was trying to find The Bone People in the library, but I’m honestly not disappointed. Dogside Story was such an interesting story, and along with the drama of Rua and The Two, there’s so much loving description of the landscape itself, of the marae, of the history steeped into this small Maori coastal community, and it all kind of knits together.
As a Kiwi who grew up in the 80s, a time when Maori was just being introduced back into schools (I think, that’s how I remember it anyway), Dogside Story represents a kind of immersion for me into a world that I never ever knew, because you can’t compare token school marae visits to actually living it (ugh, I’ve expressed that badly, I’m sorry), but I still felt at home in Dogside Story somehow.
It’s not my experience at all, but it feels familiar and deeply rooted in a New Zealand - or Aotearoa - landscape, that may not be mine, but I feel like I recognise it.
Rua is an interesting and sympathetic main character, and though it took me a little while to get everyone straight in my head, once I did, I was away laughing. The Two come across a little two-dimensional at first, but when Rua starts digging, and starts demanding answers of their treatment of Kiri, and also demands that the kaumatua stand up and hold them to account - more comes out about their past and I felt a grudging sympathy.
Dogside Story was so interesting, and so very readable. And I’ve rambled and not made a lot of sense, I know, but I definitely recommend it. Also yay, I actually finished the challenge this time!!!