50 Books by 50 Women: Stephanie Johnson

~BOOK BLURB~, 50 Books by 50 Women, Book Club notes, Kete Review, Quick Read
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Stephanie Johnson

Mar 03   ●  min read   ●  Penguin Books NZ

This funny, fearless, thought-provoking novel trains its sights on us.

Kerry-Anne is kind, unlike her foster sister Joleen, who is a different kind of person altogether. Being locked down for Joleen will mean behind bars.

For Kerry-Anne’s ex-husband, the National MP Lyall Hull, lockdown will also take on a new meaning when he goes on a cycle trip instead of staying at home.

From lockdown in the Bay of Islands, Kerry-Anne tries to work out what both are up to. Will anyone come up smelling of roses?

‘Johnson has always had an eye for topicality’ — Steve Braunias

“Rainbow Valley is on the way up Mount Everest, about five hundred metres from the top and patched with bright colours rarely seen in nature. She had seen it herself in the days of travel. Neon oranges, livid greens and purples, hallucinogenic pinks and acid yellows are distributed unevenly, which may be due to wind direction, or weight and heft, or the exact position of the climber on the ridge before the fall or disposal of the body. 

This guy, though, right here and now, high on the Southern Alps of New Zealand, is more of a black exclamation mark on a white page, Kiwi-noir face down in the snow. She climbs down from her snowmobile and with surprising ease turns him over to see if he’s still alive. “

It’s a cross between a satire and a thriller that pivots around – before, during and after – that strange silent period of the first lockdown in March 2020. The title echoes the fleeting surge of national collective goodwill during the shock shutdown when our then-PM urged us to be “kind.” And most of us tried. But then, as Johnson makes clear, the resilience of kindness can erode when it collides with less altruistic instincts. That transition, the tipping over from good to bad, drives Kind’s intrigue, full of surprises to the very end. What a tangled web Johnson weaves. . . . Kind ends in 2023, in the cruel world we now have to deal with. After a startling twist, it turns out that Johnson’s book is deeper than a satire, or a thriller, but something much more tender – and reflective about what we have lost.