Like many New Zealanders, I loved The Denniston Rose when it was released. So, I was eager to read Jenny Pattrick’s Latest novel Heartland and, although I was trying not to compare it to her very successful first novel, it was inevitable that I would.
Jenny tells a great story. She also creates really interesting characters through which her stories are revealed. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, she places them into really unique communities. In Heartland, this is a modern community – a place recognisable to many as a small New Zealand rural township in decline. It could be anywhere, but Manawa, this fictional town, is located adjacent to Mt Ruapehu, near Ohakune and Raetihi. The skiing season brings some interesting townies and the juxtaposition of these townies with locals is a theme of this book.
The main characters are: Donny Mac, a young man recently freed from prison; a runaway teenage mother the locals refer to as The Virgin; Vera, a dear soul who seems as if she might be mistaken as homeless in the big city; and Bull, Vera’s contemporary, and potential romantic interest, with his own angst-filled hermit existence.
What we see is a township under stress but coping – looking after each other. The ski bunnies arrive and, of course, see the town in a completely different light through their upmarket ski goggle lenses. It’s this that I find intriguing. The lack of understanding that these decrepit houses are actually homes that are full of life and stories and love. Lives that have lived on this for years and span lifetimes. This community holds many secrets and, when a film crew arrives, so many of their secrets threaten to be revealed. A revelation that if it is permitted will change Manawa forever.
Jenny Pattrick’s latest novel is a masterful story of community and kinship. And, it’s a compelling read. I really enjoyed both the book and talking to Jenny about her writing.