Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley
by Danyl McLauchlan (Victoria University Press, $30)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington
The mysteries of the Aro Valley that I wanted anwers to were: Who distributed rustled sheep meat to the solo mothers in the area? Who fixed your car for a meal or a song behind a house in Aro Street? Where did all the wooden sheds disappear to on the properties with open fireplaces? Whose goat was it we passed around to eat the wild growth behind the houses? What were those funny plants here and there amongst the, um, weeds? Whose children were those anyway?
If I’d hoped for answers to these and other questions left over from the seventies when I lived there (didn’t everybody?) I was disappointed. I persevered with Danyl McLauchlan’s book and found even more unanswered questions. But I wasn’t disapponted.
McLauchlan’s latest Aro Valley adventure follws his Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley, but you don’t need to have read the first to enjoy the second. Mysterious Mysteries is a sharp, satirical and sometimes downright scary romp through and around that valley in ways that made me question the realities of the places I thought I knew so well. I doubt you need to be familiar with the area’s convoluted meanderings to appreciate the story, with its dark tunnels, rickety dwellings, underground waterways, and dubious bookshops, archives and cafes, all peopled by a motley cast that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Shakepearean stage (think Bottom the Weaver).