cover image Greta & Valdin

Greta & Valdin

Rebecca K. Reilly. Avid Reader, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-66802-804-9

New Zealander Reilly debuts with a charming tale of two siblings reckoning with heartache and familial dysfunction. The novel begins as a comedy of errors. Valdin, who goes by V and has obsessive compulsive disorder, opens a package meant for his father, Linsh, mistakenly believing it’s a book returned as an olive branch by his ex-boyfriend, Xabi. Meanwhile, V’s sister, Greta, is ghosted by an internet date while on a trip to Wellington and ends up lost on a dark forest path. The siblings, who share an apartment in Auckland, have no shortage of complicated family dynamics (Linsh is Russian; their mother, Betty, is Mā ori; and Xabi is their uncle’s Catalonian husband’s brother). Greta, an English tutor and graduate student at the University of Auckland, pines for one of her colleagues, while V, a former astrophysicist turned TV travel show host, flies to Argentina on assignment, where he seizes a chance to connect with Xabi. Reilly drops in lots of Māori words and phrases, but does so in a manner that readers will find immersive rather than alienating, thanks in part to Greta’s interest in learning what they mean. This offbeat millennial comedy has universal appeal. Agents: Jenny Bent and Martha Perotto-Wills, Bent Agency. (Feb.)