The Walking Stick Tree by Trish Harris (Escalator Press, 2016), 234 pp., $35; The Case of the Missing Body by Jenny Powell (Otago University Press, 2016), 100 pp., $29.25
Trish Harris’ The Walking Stick Tree is the story of the author’s life with pain. The reader follows her progress over some 47 years, from her childhood home in North Otago to her current home in Plimmerton. The narrative is punctuated by essays on various subjects – chronic illness, identity, spirituality – and Sarah Laing’s illustrations are a pleasant addition, providing light-hearted pictorial asides.
Harris was diagnosed at six with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that just seemed to arrive one day, with its pernicious swellings, fevers and rashes. Over a matter of weeks, a child who had been active and physically able became schooled in the many things she could no longer do. A testament to her character and resilience, however, much of the memoir depicts the exceptional desire for inclusion and independence that drove her to find ways around seemingly impossible activities. [Read more…]