Finding Connection in an Isolated Place: Life and Books on Rēkohu

We are CHAT 001 – a group of 12 women living in the Chatham Islands/Wharekauri/Rēkohu. We work at the local primary school (of which there are two on Chatham Island, and one on Pitt Island); for the police, the council, the museum, and our own businesses; in conservation, farming and fishing; and one is a children’s author. Two grew up on the island, and the rest consider ourselves ‘expats’ – even the one who has lived here for 22 years!

Members of CHAT 001

The love of a good book brought us together, but so too did the desire for a regular social outing. As one member said, we’re not old enough for Golden Oldies, and we don’t go to fishing or farming meetings, so there are not many opportunities for us to 'go out'! Rēkohu can be a lonely place, and this book club provides us with something regular to look forward to, plenty of laughs, and great books (with a deadline to get through them).

We were officially welcomed to the Book Discussion Scheme on June 6, 2023, and convene at the Owenga Club. At the south-east end of the island, Owenga is 20km from Waitangi, the township where the few shops and main services are found. Our furthermost member travels about 30km to each meet, which starts at 7pm and finishes... late.

Owenga Club, where CHAT 001 hold their weekly meetings

There isn’t a book shop here, but you can find some great second-hand reads at Mitre 12 (a building at the Te One Transfer Station), or on the shelves at River Onion (a cafe that’s open most Saturday mornings). The Chatham Islands Council also has a selection of pre-loved books, alongside a collection from the Wellington City Library that’s rotated bi-monthly.

Shelves of books to borrow at Chatham Council Building

We are coming to the end of our first year. Our favourite titles so far being Auē and Star of the North, and we’re currently reading American Dirt. We had an additional movie night for The Glass Castle, but probably shouldn’t have – as we spent most of the time commenting on how it differed from the book! In between our get-togethers, we carry on the conversations (and share book memes) in our Messenger group ‘Book Chats’.

We are definitely signing up for another year. Says CHAT 001 coordinator Kate Preece, “I don’t know what I’d do without book club!”


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