Maraea has lived by the sea for years and years and years. As a child, she and her sisters and brothers and cousins and friends waited each year for the albatrosses to arrive, and called to them, to welcome them back and guide them to their nesting places. But as the years went by, the sisters and brothers and cousins all left to live in towns and cities and other countries, and at last, only Maraea was left to wait for and welcome the albatrosses each year. At last, one year, when she is very, very old, she sits and the cliff top, and wonders whether she will ever see her beloved albatrosses again. And through the most wonderful transformation, she does.
This book makes me cry. Maraea is steadfast, waiting there every year for the albatrosses. Her end is poignant, but so hopeful, with a sense of renewal and life going on.
The story does not refer explicitly to the albatross colony at Taiaroa Heads, but it seemingly is the basis for Patricia Grace’s story. To my great regret, although I spent four years in Dunedin as a student, I never made my way out to Taiaroa Heads, but if I ever get to Dunedin again, I will certainly visit.
I’ve long admired Patricia Grace’s writing. I have read many of her short stories, and some of her novels. I particularly remember Mutuwhenua: The Moon Sleeps, which I read as a young woman. I don’t care so much for some of her other children’s stories, but this one grabs me.