Review: State Highway One by Sam Coley

Title: State Highway One

Author: Sam Coley

Published: July 28th 2020, Hachette NZ

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia


My Thoughts:

“They say you can never go home again, except here I am at nine in the morning, still a bit drunk, still in the suit I wore yesterday, gunning one-forty up Sate Highway One, headed north, headed for the Cape, home again and getting away.”

After three years working in Dubai, Alex Preston has returned home to New Zealand to bury his estranged parents after their death in a car accident. Reluctant to return to his childhood home in Auckland following the funeral, Alex, accompanied by his twin sister, Amy, impulsively decides to drive to Cape Reinga, New Zealand’s northernmost point. On reaching it he is reminded of a promise made to Amy to one day travel to Stewart Point together, and with only two weeks til Alex must once again leave, they recklessly decide to follow the State Highway One all the way to New Zealand’s southernmost point.

Sam Coley presents a poignant journey undertaken amid a miasma of grief, confusion and anger in his remarkable debut, State Highway One. It’s a story that explores the themes of home, family, identity, and dispossession as the close confines of the car gives rise to reminisces, recriminations and regrets.

Though the focus is on the emotional progress of the twins, as is common to many a road trip, particularly spontaneous ones, the siblings experience unexpected obstacles, unplanned detours, and breakdowns during their adventure.

Coley, it seems, knows New Zealand well. As the twins travel south, we are given glimpses of the island nation – sprawling cities and tiny towns, dense bushland and fallow farmland, rugged coast side cliffs, and raging oceans. Alex’s iPod provides a carefully curated virtual soundtrack (which you can listen to on Spotify).

With evocative writing, superb characterisation, and tender insight State Highway One is a deserved winner of the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers.


Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer
    Aug 11, 2020 @ 11:54:25

    Great review, Shelleyrae, of an awesome book.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Mystica
    Aug 11, 2020 @ 16:11:15

    Thank you for the review, the author and book totally new for me.
    Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Amanda Barrett
    Aug 11, 2020 @ 20:59:56

    I enjoyed your review, thanks Shelleyrae!

    Liked by 1 person


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  5. Helen Murdoch
    Aug 17, 2020 @ 02:26:08

    I’ve never read a book set in New Zealand and it’s a country I’d still like to visit. This sounds like a good one.



  6. Cherry Hughes
    Aug 28, 2020 @ 10:35:41

    Not quite finished it yet but at times finding the time shifts confusing. Think the link to Spotify a great addition. Playing it now as I type.

    Liked by 1 person


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