OTHER HALVES by Sue McCauley


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To categorize this exceptionally fine first novel from New Zealand as merely ""a very good love story,"" as one London critic did, does a real injustice to what is a tough, unsentimental, and moving work of autobiographical fiction. The story of a 34-year-old suburban housewife's involvement with a 16-year-old streetwise Maori boy begins after the disintegration of the woman's mental health and the end of her marriage to an essentially selfish chiropractor. Having reached the depths of domestic despair brought on by her husband's infidelities and the death of her first child, she commits herself to a mental hospital. There, ""Liz"" meets and befriends ""Tug,"" an enigmatic, young native and thug full of anger and, in his own way, suffering. The growth of their friendship, begun over poker games in the hospital and developing into something much more powerful on the outside, is smoothly chronicled. All the tensions between their conflicting backgrounds, cultures, and lives ring as true as the book's superb dialogue. This is how real people think, speak, and act. McCauley creates characters that live and struggle to get by in a world that is at once both foreign and familiar. She drops insights among the pages casually and naturally: ""She stood searching for a retort, wanting it to be a slap, hard and quick. Looking at the elbows of his pale beefy arms beneath the rolled up sleeves of a powder-blue shirt. Ginger hair and freckles. And beginning to feel sorry for him. It was always the way--her rage going damp and dissolving into a puddle of sympathy, at least with men. For men always seemed so transparent in anger, like a glass clock with little wheels of insecurity, fear and injured pride revolving, one turning the other."" This is a wonderful first novel that stays with the reader as an honest experience. It was first published in New Zealand in 1982, and won the 1982 James Wattle Book of the Year Award (equivalent of the Booker Prize) as well as the 1983 New Zealand Book Award.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1985
Publisher: Penguin