Through the chatty, love-filled little letters to Gene, we get to know Roly as an intelligent, uncomplicated gent in his twilight years with a positive outlook on life and his fair share of small town problems. These include a bitter ex-wife, the token busybody and friends dropping off their perches.
He deals with it all with a warm wit that takes the edge off some stressful situations. I took particular delight in the uniquely Australian turns of phrase: in my opinion, the Aussies beat the Texans hands down in the metaphor wars. Roly’s are endearingly down-to-earth and I have bags of favourites, including “he wouldn’t shout if a shark bit him”. I also now no longer say I am “away with the fairies” but “down in my shed”.
Apart from the hilarious extended metaphors in these stories, I feel the real magic lies in the fact that Roly Parks is an Everyman: any older person who has worked and lived and loved and lost can see a bit of themselves and those they know in Roly, and can take comfort from his simple, calm take on what are life’s big dramas. Roly deals philosophically and light-heartedly with divorce and losing one’s friends while accepting that he is also moving up a seat every day on the bench in God’s waiting room.
Title: Letter from Kalangadoo: the Roly Parks collection
Author: Bryan Dawe
Reviewed by Monica F, Waitakere Central Library
Monica F is happiest in gumboots and apron, attending to her animals, harvesting her crops and making stuff. Like all truly wholesome people, she has a dark side, and enjoys nothing better than well written true crime and forensic medicine.