Flight of the Albatross (New Zealand)

FlightofAlbatrossby Deborah Savage

I found this hardback Y/A book on my shelves. I have no idea where it came from. Copyright 1989.

The author is American, but I liked the fact that two of the protagonists are Maori, so I decided to read it.

The Plot: New York City girl Sarah goes to New Zealand to spend her summer vacation with her mother Pauline, an ornithologist. Her somewhat self-obsessed mom isn’t really around, so the neighbors, a Maori woman married to a Pakeha (white) man, take her under their wing and she begins a romance with the woman’s son Mako. Mako is a Maori who got into trouble in Auckland and dropped out of school. He’s come to the island to be closer to his father, a Maori activist who has just re-entered his life.

Meanwhile, Sarah finds a wandering albatross washed up on the beach, hurt. (Wandering Albatrosses can fly for seven years without having to seek land!) Seeking help for the bird, Sarah runs into the grumpy but good-heated old Hattie, a Maori woman living in the bush. She agrees to doctor the bird if Sarah will come every day to check on it, and if Mako will fish for it.

It may be a cliche, but I love grumpy but good-hearted oldsters.

Anyway, there are some definite elements of magical realism in this novel, along with a pretty stark picture of the historical unfairness of white colonization on the Maori, along with the pure fact that since time can’t be turned back, the only option offering real hope is for the Maori and the Pakeha to somehow work together to heal the land, and each other. And it wasn’t preachy. It also offered the story of how the Pakeha had turned some Maori tribes against each other.

Five carved Maori canoes!

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