The Death of Kai Kawiti and other Stories

Kai Kawiti, great Maori actor and activist, dies in London. In New Zealand, his birth and adoptive tribes both claim the honour of burying him. Five people, all somewhat lost, are pulled into that dispute. Ngaire Wharehoka, divorced, working in a bookshop, lost too much, has to re-engage with her estranged husband, family and culture. Her ex-husband Alistair Reynolds, stuck in another bad relationship, executes Kai’s will and inherits some of his political causes. Her employer John Bates, escaping academia to manage a failing bookshop, is drafted in and discovers unexpected people skills including deception. Willie Wharehoka gets involved in marae politics while dodging violent cops and organised crime. Helen Quirke, pr hack and Alistair’s disgruntled mistress, fancies John and, by fraud and betrayal, saves his bookshop. Meanwhile Ngaire suggests the tribes settle their dispute by oratory contest, or whaikorero. They agree, but the winners,
arguably, cheat. The losers try to steal Kai’s ashes from a train. Our cast joins that fight. Peace and perhaps their self-respect depends on the outcome.

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