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Pukapuka Talks

Grand: Becoming my mother’s daughter is an astonishing debut about mothers and daughters, drinking, birth and loss, running away and homecoming, from prize-winning writer and broadcaster Noelle McCarthy. Fellow journalist/broadcaster Wendyl Nissen, who had her own mother difficulties and challenges with alcohol, facilitates the conversation.

At the heart of Noelle McCarthy’s memoir Grand: Becoming my mother’s daughter is a revelation about lines of women in families, and trauma, and how it has the potential to repeat. From Catholic Ireland in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s to sparkling Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in the first years of the new millennium, Grand is a story of the invisible ties that bind us, of bitter legacies handed down through the generations, and of the leap of faith it takes to change them.

ReadingRoom editor Steve Braunias dubbed it the ‘best memoir of the year’ prior to its April release. When he first read it, Braunias said he was ‘variously dazzled, entertained, deeply moved and constantly involved: it's such a readable book, the prose is exact and sometimes beautiful, and the life it reveals is of a woman pretty much doomed to follow in her Mammy's footsteps.

Perhaps moving to the other side of the world was McCarthy's saving grace. After a chaotic start, during which time she worked at a Tāmaki Makaurau student radio station and then RNZ, McCarthy sobered up, started 'doing the work' and today remains both in recovery and a functional and fulfilling relationship with John Daniell, her partner in both love and in business.

Buy the pukapuka here:

Noelle McCarthy: Grand: Becoming My Mother's Daughter | Wendyl Nissen: My Mother and Other Secrets 


With thanks to Penguins Books NZ.


Noelle McCarthy 

Noelle McCarthy is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. Buck Rabbit, her first foray into non-fiction, won the Short Memoir section of the Fish Publishing International Writing competition in 2020.

Since 2017, she and her husband John Daniell have been making critically acclaimed podcasts as Bird of Paradise Productions. She has written columns, reviews, first-person essays, and features for a wide range of media in Aotearoa including Metro, The NZ Herald and Newsroom. In Ireland, she’s provided commentary for radio and written for The Irish Times, The Independent and The Irish Examiner. McCarthy and Daniell live in the Wairarapa, just outside of Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, with their young daughter. She misses Irish chocolate.


Wendyl Nissen 

Wendyl Nissen is a journalist, broadcaster and magazine editor who is the author of 10 books, mostly about living a chemical-free, old-fashioned life. She left the corporate world 20 years ago and now lives in the Hokianga with her husband, 10 chickens (and counting), two dogs and two stray cats. Copies of her latest book, A Natural Year: Living Simply Through the Seasons, which continues her story, will also be available at our festival bookstore.

Sat 22 Oct | 12.30pm

60 min
Pay What You Can (PWYC)

Plus service fee 
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Content Warnings: Drug references, alcoholism

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