Loop Tracks: Sue Orr is one of the best

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards ceremony was on Wednesday 11 May. Ockhams season is an exciting time for New Zealand book lovers and although there can be only one winner in each category, it's a win for all those nominated and a celebration of New Zealand writers.

Sue Orr's latest book, Loop Tracks, which made the longlist for the Ockhams, reflects several pivotal moments in New Zealand's recent history, including the lockdown of 2020.

Loop Tracks

I loved this very Kiwi slice-of-life story. It resonates on so many levels for me.

Orr covers the abortion issues of the 1970s, when women had to fly to Australia for a termination. Loop Track's lead character, Charlie, is only fifteen when she's faced with the fear and shame of an unwanted pregnancy, and has to make the journey. But she never makes the flight. 

A black slick is in her bones. She is yet to know this as regret, but she'll come to sense its lurking, she'll come to know its ebb leaves her brittle and bereft.

This part of the book is lovingly written - it reminded me - I had forgotten - what it was like to be fifteen again, filled with romantic notions, hormones and confusion with a changing body.

Almost forty-two years later, it appears Charlie's life never really took off: she's been raising her grandson. Now fifty-seven, she is faced with fielding his questions about his origins and helping him to surmount his autism to navigate university, new friends, and his first girlfriend.

Orr's setting is recognisably Wellington:  Aro Valley, Cuba Mall, Willis Street - streets I remember fondly from my younger days in the Windy City.

There's a fair bit of hiking up and down steps, which brought Robin Hyde and Patricia Grace to mind, and a dip into the music scene, which took me back to days of fangirling Pip Brown (LadyHawke) and Julia Deans

The Loop Tracks are literal: characters' stories spirograph around a character who layers her own music with a loop pedal. 

Tommy's glossy black shoes clip across the fading score of my sleep...

Which brings me to Sue Orr's language. She's funny, clever, and alliteration rolls off her tongue naturally into passages, leaving you with an exclamation of pleasure, or a chuckle after reading:

Dozens of egg sandwiches have been devoured and are contributing one way or another to the sulphuric odour on board.

Best bit? The lockdown section. It's entertaining and quite hilarious, describing bubble-breaks, random hookups (!), and the things we remember the most: birdsong replacing traffic noise, people walking in the middle of the road as if cars will never return, stocking up on toilet paper, and drinking while zooming. Lol.

And Charlie rediscovering the young girl still inside her. <3

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