USEREVIEW 122 (Capsule): Tauhou
Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall
Tauhou (House of Anansi Press, 2023)
ISBN | 978-1-48701-169-7 | 224 pp | $24.99 CAD | BUY Here
Tauhou, the debut full-length offering of Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall, is billed as a novel and at first blush I could not really understand why. The forms that make up this book are eclectic. Some ‘chapters’ are poems, others are fables, though most can be read like self-contained works of short fiction. Characters who are central to one story become passersby in another. More than anything, this seemed to me like a book of interconnected stories, something similar to the brilliant The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat.
However, by the time I reached the end of Tauhou (which did not take long, for I read it with rapt, undivided attention), the book’s guiding ethic had become clearly visible: calling this a novel makes a profound statement about how story is community. In contrast to a form such as a Bildungsroman that follows the trajectory of an individual life, Tauhou focalizes a complex network of relationships between families, friends, and even the locales, flora, and fauna they live among. This novel is not structured upon the familiar beats of narrative arc, and it certainly isn’t structured around conflict, though the ongoing struggles of colonialism stalk its periphery. Rather, Tauhou is shaped like a spiderweb whose delicate, and sometimes broken, strands of connectivity are being revealed, and even rebuilt, in the telling.
‘Moko’ (pp. 31–41) could be read as a standalone short story, but also has rhizomes that spread beneath the entire forest floor of Tauhou.