Settlers' Creek

Publication: 2010

Author: Carl Nixon

Box Saxton just wants to bury Mark, his stepson. What happens, though, when the boy’s biological father, a Maori leader, unexpectedly turns up in the days before the funeral and forcibly takes the boy’s body? According to Maori custom the boy should be buried in the tribe’s ancestral cemetery in the small coastal town of Kaipuna. According to the law there is very little Box can do. With no plan and little hope, Box gets in his old truck and drives north, desperate and heartbroken.

Settlers’ Creek examines the claims of both indigenous peoples and more recent settlers to have a spiritual link to the land. The book explores with depth and compassion some of the many issues of race and culture faced by New Zealand.

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Original Language

English (for ANZ) | Random House New Zealand

Translation Rights

French | Éditions de l'Aube
German | Weilde Verlag


"Brave, bold and unflinching, Carl Nixon's Settlers' Creek is one of the best novels to come out of New Zealand. It's not only a gripping, brutal thriller but also a dissection of a country and its culture. It's the kind of book that gets you run out of town." Witi Ihimaera, author of Whale Rider

"[Settlers' Creek] is the kind of novel that will be loved as much as it is loathed. It will raise fiercely contested issues as much as it tells a story. The storyline is simple, the effects complicated…. Two families come into conflict over the burial of a teenage boy. Box Saxton wants to bury his stepson in the local cemetery, but the biological father wants to return him to ancestral ground …..The second half of the book is a terrific portrait of the way grief can send you out of your mind and make you behave in unpredictable and irrational ways….(Nixon) shows what a master craftsman he can be. Exquisite writing." New Zealand Herald

"Carl Nixon is stunningly talented ….His second novel, Settlers' Creek, is a fascinating portrayal of a man alone in the midst of a complex cultural conflict … Nixon sets up a fruitful allegory between the nation Box's ancestors adopted and the son Box adopted, loved and nurtured. These claims are not biological or legal ones, but are moral, spiritual and emotional. Thus the political becomes personal again, and the story of Settlers' Creek returns to Box and his experience, perfectly balancing the exploration of a very contemporary issue with great storytelling." The Listener NZ

"With this fascinating odyssey of two different families in mourning Carl Nixon strikes at the most sensitive parts of the human soul... It is definitely worth going on this journey. It takes us not only to the roots of New Zealand but further, to the stranger in all of us." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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