The Pounamu Prophecy by Cindy Williams explores the relationship between Helene and her husband James, married for five years and living in Queensland. It follows their evolution as a couple with the help of Mere, a friend of James’ mother from New Zealand, who is writing a book about the land rights struggle in New Zealand between the Ngāti Whātua tribe of Auckland, and the white government’s policies that left Mere and her Māori family without a real home.
The power in this book rests in the seamless transitioning between the point of views of Mere, told in first person and in the past, and Helene and James, told in third person. The story ping-pongs back into Mere’s history as she writes a book for her family about the struggles of her past. The pain of losing land, home and family reverberates through the novel as Mere reflects and writes her story whilst staying with Helene and James.
A powerful aspect of this novel for me was that Mere’s anger was rare; when she felt it, it was aimed at a specific person or target or intended to make a statement – she had a loving, open and accepting nature of people who had nothing to do with the tragedies that visited her family. There was something remarkable about Mere that permeated the narrative and affected everyone she interacted with throughout.
The characters were all well-rounded, with individual motivations and aspects to their personalities that gave great insight into what they did and how they had gotten to the point where the reader first meets them. The external forces inciting the events that lead to the crisis create effective tension between the characters, breaking through the rut they are in.
The landscapes of Auckland and Queensland draw the reader further into the story, giving them a landscape to associate the characters with, where they can find who they are and what path they must travel to heal wounds with a deep history and great pain behind them.