Ockham New Zealand Book Awards: Stephanie Johnson’s Everything Changes

" '...You said it had views but this is unreal!' She's turning away from him, her pregnant silhouette against the great gulf of sky. Davie draws close again, pointing into the hot, gleaming north, and I join them so that we can stand there together for a moment, the three of us, looking down from the peak of the ranges to distant Bream Bay and blue Whangarei Heads, down to the farms, the cluster of roofs that make up the nearest coastal town, and the million-man march of the pine trees in regulated lines up the flanks of the hills towards us."

Everything Changes is the latest book by Stephanie Johnson , author of The Heart's Wild Surf.

Everything Changes

Everything Changes is an excellent read with engaging and often funny characters who all share their points of view - even the dog, Kaos/Muzza (who is a poet!).

In each chapter, Johnson assumes a different character with their particular mannerisms and language.

There's Col, who used to be a scriptwriter for Kiwi soap-opera Shortland Street and her husband Davie, a former set designer. After Muzza kills their neighbour's valuable cat, Col and Davie are forced to leave their home in Auckland to restart their lives (at sixty!); buying a run-down tea-rooms in Northland. 

Hilariously, Muzza growls whenever Davie tries to get close to his wife.

Liv, their heavily pregnant daughter, has come 'home' from the States, keeping the baby's paternity under a cloud. A Daddy's girl, she lashes out at Col. Why?

Choir(master), a young man on a home-detention bracelet, joins the fray, working to help get the retreat ready for guests. 

And then there are the guests...! 

Author Stephanie Johnson balances slang and sweary-bits with breathtaking descriptive text - the land variously described as a fist, a knuckle, a hip; and a wild goose-chase of an adventure. She's is a prolific writer who has penned novels, poetry, short stories, non-fiction, screenplays, plays, and was a co-founder of the Auckland Writers' Festival.

Everything Changes has been longlisted for the Jan Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham NZ Book Awards this year. Other nominees of note include Alice Tawhai's Aljce in Therapy Land and Whiti Hereaka's retelling of Hatupatu and the Bird-Woman; Kurangaituku.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards include the Jan Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, the Booksellers Aotearoa Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction, the General Non-Fiction Award and the Mary and Peter Briggs Award for Poetry. There are some brilliant nominees in these categories, including a book on Bill Hammond's work Across the Evening Sky, Patricia Grace's From the Centre and poet Tayi Tibble's Rangikura. The shortlist for the awards is out on 2 March.

Everything Changes has also been nominated for the Best Adult Fiction category in the NZ Booklovers Awards, to be announced on 17 March.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a bit of the dog's poetry:

Teeth wide at girl in pup.

Grow low.

Col pat. Col calm.




Arms, smell, love 

and up the stairs, running, 

my old love

my boy!



Col sweet

Davie kind

Kisses from my old love Choir.

Love. On couch head in Col's lap.

Old love Choir stroking flank.




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