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  • Published: 2 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775539
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $36.00

Everything Changes




'a fabulous read'

Buying a rundown motel to start a new life — what could possibly go wrong? In this funny and moving novel, prize-winning author Stephanie Johnson turns her wry eye on us.

‘What a fabulous read. Stephanie Johnson’s characters choose an old motel with little to offer except an amazing view in order to start a ‘new life’. Their first guests are a classic cast of the sorrowful and dysfunctional that every-day life throws at us these days. They are joined by their pregnant daughter, a mysterious young criminal from next door and a dog that knows more than all of them put together. The story is fast paced, and unpredictable, it’s smart, contemporary and heartbreaking all at once. And, just when it was about to make me cry, Johnson startled me into wild laughter. This is her best book ever, and I loved every page of it.’ – Fiona Kidman

  • Published: 2 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775539
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $36.00

About the author

Stephanie Johnson

Stephanie Johnson is the author of several collections of poetry and of short stories, some plays and adaptations, and many fine novels. The New Zealand Listener commented that Stephanie Johnson is a writer of talent and distinction. Over the course of an award-winning career — during which she has written plays, poetry, short stories and novels — she has become a significant presence in the New Zealand literary landscape, a presence cemented and enhanced by her roles as critic and creative writing teacher.’ The Shag Incident won the Montana Deutz Medal for Fiction in 2003, and Belief was shortlisted for the same award. Stephanie has also won the Bruce Mason Playwrights Award and Katherine Mansfield Fellowship, and was the 2001 Literary Fellow at the University of Auckland. Many of her novels have been published in Australia, America and the United Kingdom. She co-founded the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival with Peter Wells in 1999.

The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature describes Johnson’s writing as ‘marked by a dry irony, a sharp-edged humour that focuses unerringly on the frailties and foolishness of her characters . . . There is compassion, though, and sensitivity in the development of complex situations’, and goes on to note that ‘a purposeful sense of . . . larger concerns balances Johnson’s precision with the small details of situation, character and voice that give veracity and colour’.

Her writing has been described as ‘skilful, insightful, witty’, displaying ‘a truly light touch’ (New Zealand Herald). Belief, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Montana Book Awards, was called by Sara Wilson in The Historical Novel Review (UK) ‘a powerful novel, unsentimental and unflinching in its portrayal of the potentially destructive power of love and faith’. In North & South, Warwick Roger wrote that Music from a Distant Room saw Johnson in ‘top form’— a novel which is ‘immensely satisfying, utterly believable’.

Reviewing The Open World in The New Zealand Listener, John McCrystal praised the ‘deftness of touch’ with which Johnson renders her characters: ‘it’s often no more than a little detail, such as the habitual movement of a muscle in a face that brings a character to life’. After commending the lightness with which she wears her obviously extensive research, he noted the care she takes with language — ‘Best of all is her feel for the elegance of the Victorian turn of phrase.’

Novels include: Crimes of Neglect (1992; short-listed for Wattie’s Book Awards 1993); The Heart’s Wild Surf (1996, and Dymock’s/Quote Unquote Readers’ Poll’s Best New Zealand Book 1996; published in the United States in 2003 as The Sailmaker’s Daughter); The Whistler (1998; third prize in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 1999); Belief (2000; short-listed for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2001); The Shag Incident (2002;Deutz Medal for Fiction, Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2003); Music From A Distant Room (2004; long-listed 2009 Impac Prize, Dublin); John Tomb’s Head (2006; long-listed 2006 Impac Prize, Dublin); Swimmers’ Rope (2008; long-listed 2009 Impac Prize, Dublin); The Open World (2012); and The Writing Class (2013).

Short story collections include:The Glass Whittler (1989); All the Tenderness Left in the World (1993); and Drowned Sprat and Other Stories (2005).

Poetry collections include: The Bleeding Ballerina (1986) and Moody Bitch (2003).

Stage plays include: Accidental Phantasies; Folie a Deux; Strange Children; and Goodnight Nurse.

Also by Stephanie Johnson

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Praise for Everything Changes

What a fabulous read. Stephanie Johnson’s characters choose an old motel with little to offer except an amazing view in order to start a ‘new life’. Their first guests are a classic cast of the sorrowful and dysfunctional that every-day life throws at us these days. They are joined by their pregnant daughter, a mysterious young criminal from next door and a dog that knows more than all of them put together. The story is fast paced, and unpredictable, it’s smart, contemporary and heartbreaking all at once. And, just when it was about to make me cry, Johnson startled me into wild laughter. This is her best book ever, and I loved every page of it.

Fiona Kidman

Its momentum aided by short chapters and changing points of view, Everything Changes is tragi-comic in its tone and delivery. Its litany of social issues as well as generational chasms, parental failure and loss; marital delusion and disenchantment, form a fraught emotional topography. The occasional absurdities of the novel's action and populace provide welcome respite and the result is something of a literary macchiato, a blend of bitter darkness lightened by a dash of soft steamy froth.

Rachel O'Connor, NZ Herald

The tone of Stephanie Johnson's latest novel tends towards the acidly funny. She is an insightful writer but also quite a cynical one, and when she turns her lens on New Zealanders, she is both amusing and merciless . . . In Stephanie's trademark salty-vinegary style, the author explores all their relationships and the way they spark off each other. This is a very contemporary novel, satirising much about the way we live today, with a brisk pace and a lot of wry humour. Everything Changes is a fun, fast read, although I found it difficult to like anyone much. even Muzza the dog!

Nicky Pellegrino, NZ Woman's Weekly

No one familiar with this Kiwi writer’s novels, plays or short stories will approach her latest work expecting a dull time. Stephanie really outdoes herself this time with a dysfunctional family who leave Auckland to turn a Northland motel into a luxury retreat. There’s a pregnant daughter back from LA, a dog who’s just eaten the neighbour’s $1000 cat and a rich American determined to kill himself at their retreat. Brilliant.

Sharon Stephenson, Woman (NZ)

The hard-won, capacious love in Stephanie Johnson’s newest novel, Everything Changes, is an antidote to the last year—and, for that matter, to the last 30 or so years. It’s been clear for some time to anyone who cares to pay attention that the world as we know it is falling away, as are the scales from our collective eyes. . . . The braided narrative makes it all the more poignant to witness each character attempting to translate their rich inner lives into halting communication with those around them. These characters’ interactions with those they love are, in the end, often just so much shadow boxing. They talk around each other, skirting difficult feelings, shunting complicated connections. The novel is a crazy quilt of interwoven stories by means of which we come to root for these complicated, flawed, endearing characters as they fumble their way toward lasting connection in a world turned upside down.

Maggie Trapp, Kete.co.nz

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In Everything Changes, a black comedy that will keep you hooked to the last page, Stephanie Johnson takes Tolstoy’s immortal words and adds the rejoinder that unhappy families can complement each other’s sadness in the most unexpected ways. . . . The intersection of these seven disparate lives is dramatic and transformative, breaking some and remaking others in surprising and satisfying ways. Although told entirely in the first person, the narrative switches from character to character, providing alternative perspectives on events and hinting at backstories redolent with violence, grief and loss.

Cushla McKinney, Otago Daily Times

These may not be the most likeable characters but they are certainly fascinating and engaging; Stephanie Johnson is at her best as she reveals them in all their sad, funny, awful humanity. . . . Johnson takes a risk with both character and point of view. I was at first unsure of the wisdom of the brisk chapter changes from character to character and the use of first person for each character but she manages it beautifully. The pace rockets along with the reader caught up in the fast-moving, always surprising narrative. At the same time this choice of point of view slowly reveals the truth and nuances of character. . . . While there is violence, death and grimness, the novel also offers transformation and hope. . . . I loved the book. It's beautifully written with evocative descriptions of the landscape which holds them in all the chaos. It is funny and clever and sad. The pace takes you up and spins you along, while, at the same time you are caught up in the cataclysmic lives of those of us living in the 21st Century. Perhaps it will be all right. Perhaps they will be able to "regroup, rethink and start again." Perhaps, after all, this place of hill and heavy bush and clouds is "where we all belong."

Paddy Richardson, newsroom.co.nz

Discover more

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Everything Changes book club conversation starters

Stephanie Johnson shares discussion points and questions for her new book Everything Changes in this book club guide.

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