Signs of Life

Head, Amy


2 in stock

2 in stock

Christchurch, post quakes, and the earth is still settling. Containers line the damaged streets, whose inhabitants waver – like their city – suspended between disaster and recovery. Tony, very much alive, is declared dead, Gerald misreads one too many situations in his community patrol, and boomer Carla tries online dating. At the epicentre of these taut, magnetic stories is twenty-something Flick who, just as she is finding her feet again, faces another violent disruption – this time in human form – while her mostly-ex gets set to marry.

Keenly observed and deftly humorous, Signs of Life turns on the smallest of details to tell the biggest of stories: how we carry on.

‘Through the rubble of Amy Head’s pungent, post-quake Christchurch flickers Flick, a young woman trying to make sense of a terrible event and its endless aftermath. In her pages it all comes back, uneasily, but also with brief moments of beauty, little eruptions of comedy. Life wins out, in the end, in this bright and original piece of discontinuous fiction – a fine tribute to everyone who survived, to those who didn’t, and to the form it’s written in.’ —Patrick Evans

‘From comical to terrifying, mundane to profound, these stories traverse the intersecting lives of a multigenerational cast in surprising and original ways. Amy Head has a masterful approach.’ —Airini Beautrais

Format: Paperback
Imprint: Te Herenga Waka University Press
Publication date: 10/08/2023

Staff review

Signs of Life
by Amy Head
Review by Bel
I love novels that show me my home city in a different light, and since I didn’t live through the earthquakes, this is such a good reminder of what the city has been through. This is a novel told in fragments that describe fleeting, tiny moments in the characters’ day-to-day. They are disjointed, disorientated even, but purposefully – because so are the characters’ lives now.
The prose is incredibly understated. It’s deliberately flat and without ornamentation. It’s stripped back, slowed-down and focused on small moments surrounded by empty space.
This creates an atmosphere which is quite unique. It’s eerily still, and perfect for its subject matter. The signs of life are quiet, tentative, with a vague sense of fear and strangeness ever-present on the periphery. But there’s also such beauty, clarity, and a dry sense of humour that’s resigned to the absurdity of things. I found it sensitively observed and deeply affecting.