My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The cover image was what drew me into this novel. Carl Nixon’s The Tally Stick is a hard book to read and an even harder book to review. The plot centers around a family of 6 who as a whole vanish from the face of the earth in New Zealand. The absence of the Chamberlains is by itself discovered 3 weeks after they have gone missing coz of various reasons. It is not however the missing that forms the central plot, but the fact that the remains of eldest child Maurice are discovered and found to have lived for 4 years after the family vanished.
The questions come soon enough, what happened to the other children, how is it that Maurice lived for 4 years, what is going on? Carl Nixon’s writing takes the reader to the harsh and the rugged West Coast in New Zealand and the circumstances endured by the surviving three children. Mixing up the timelines, going forth, back, and sometimes the middle, the author successfully keeps the reader worried to the death about the outcome of the painful saga. The trauma becomes more pronounced for the reader when the children’s aunt Suzanne begins her search traveling to New Zealand every year searching for one clue that would give a measure of peace or closure.
Fair warning to readers, the subject matter is dark, subjugation, manipulation, animal cruelty, abuse, all these subjects are potential triggers in this novel. The Tally Stick needs a good frame of mind to read thru as the disturbing and intense story ends with hopelessness that rips our soul to pieces so much that I lost sleep thinking about it.
A compelling story that causes turmoil but makes it hard to put down, Carl Nixon’s The Tally Stick needs a strong stomach and an indifferent attitude to digest its emotional content.
Many thanks to Net Galley, World Editions, and the author for a chance to read and review this book. All opinions are expressed voluntarily.
Up on the highway, the only evidence that the Chamberlains had ever been there was two smeared tire tracks in the mud leading into an almost undamaged screen of bushes and trees. No other cars passed that way until after dawn. By that time the tracks had been washed away by the heavy rain. After being in New Zealand for only five days, the English Chamberlain family had vanished into thin air. The date was 4 April 1978. In 2010 the remains of the eldest Chamberlain child are discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived for four years after the family disappeared. Found alongside him are his father’s watch and what turns out to be a tally stick, a piece of scored wood marking items of debt. How had he survived and then died? Where is the rest of the family? And what is the meaning of the tally stick?
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