Review: Sumner Burstyn – This Way of Life

This Way of Life
Sumner Burstyn

“In an isolated and rural New Zealand, Peter and Colleen Ottley-Karena raise their seven children on the thin edge between freedom and disaster. With its genesis in the multi-award winning 2009 documentary of the same name, we see where the Ottley-Karena family is now. Faced with a range of new challenges they approach life with characteristic dignity and strength. But is their unique lifestyle one that is sustainable in the long term?”

This is a collection of stories about this family which seem to be in no particular order. The writting style is rather strange and hard to parse. I wish the author had decided one way or another on what tense to use, and whether to use third or first person, and been consistent about the source of the stories.

Am I too cynical? Am I too widely read? For me this book was too short and ultimately unremarkable. I know of, and have read, similar non-fiction. I myself was somewhat brought up this way – only the serious things are out of bounds (eg. take the dog on your walk so you don’t run into a snake), the rest you learn by doing (eg. if you poke the ants’ nest, you will get bitten!).

There’s plenty of lovely colour photographs, but I wasn’t quite sure of the relevance of some of them to the stories. It’s simplistically written, yet too detailed in places to be considered a children’s book. I can’t think of who the target audience is, or why you would want to own it to read more than once. Maybe borrow it from the library if you are keen to read more of the Ottley-Karena family, but don’t rush out to buy it.

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