Remember that special childhood friend that you shared everything with?
You got through school, boys, and family tragedies together, and dreamed about shared futures. Nobody else in the world understood you like she did. Backwards Into the Future by Bronwyn Elsmore takes us on Mary’s journey to find Ana, that special girlhood friend. They grew up together in a small town in New Zealand. Mary’s a New Zealander of European descent; Ana is Maori. Their different cultural backgrounds strengthen their bond as Kui, Ana’s grandmother, considers Mary her family and imparts advice and wisdom on both young girls.
It is the long-deceased Kui that leads Mary back to her hometown to find Ana. Mary knows Kui is somehow guiding her. In their final year in school, after experiencing deep-felt loss, Ana withdraws from her friendship with Mary. As a reader, I think there is a back story here that the author chooses not to tell us that involves Ana’s hospitalization. I was expecting to learn more about that, but it was left to our imagination. (Or, perhaps, I am reading too much into it.)
Mary’s reflections are sweet, nostalgic, layered in seemingly simple things that really delve deep, such as autograph books, and heart-wrenching tragedy.
Backwards Into the Future is an exquisitely written book with engaging characters and natural dialog. A glossary in the back of the frequently used Maori terms would be beneficial.