Southerly Change opens in 1850 with the arrival of Olive at the fictitious Port where she meets Hongi Winiata. So begins the family saga.
Port itself is like a character with its ebb and flow of change. From the pioneering days when Port was settled, alongside Māori in their already established pā nearby, town planning clawed for improvements and commercial interests battled indefinitely.
Sarah Winiata had been listening to the old stories that trace the direct line of the last six generations: Hongi, Arapeta, Hemi, Matiu, Tama and Maia - born in 1986, along with their direct relatives. Intrigued, she recorded the stories in a Journal for the family, which weaves throughout the novel, bringing strength in particular to Maia.
There are consequences to actions that must be faced by each generation. O-Hine-Nui-Te-Po is always hovering. Maia’s father - Tama agonises over a terrible accident, also his inability to accept his father, who also has had his own tragedies to overcome. He joins the Army to escape his torments but instead is facing the enemy in the Vietnam War.
Meanwhile in 2008, Maia, aged 22, calls upon the strength within the pages of the Journal, to help find her tī kouka, or way out. She reads about mayhem that struck the people of Port not knowing that her own story will follow a similar direction. Engaged to a new man in Port, she becomes trapped in a bed of lies and deception. She finds an ally in the son of a family friend. Another newcomer to Port with a secret identity offers help.
In the final chapter, while the remaining Winiatas gather at the urupā to remember loved ones, potential stories for the Journal suddenly surface.
Clouds are building but the Southerly Change this time brings closure, strength and hope.