At fourteen Miro Bilbrough falls out with the communist grandmother who has raised her since she was seven, and is sent to live with her father and his rural-hippy friends. It is 1978, Canvastown, New Zealand, and the Floodhouse is a dwelling of pre-industrial gifts and deficiencies set on the banks of the Wakamarina River, which routinely invades its rooms.
Isolated in rural poverty, the lives of Miro and her father and sister are radically enhanced by the Manaroans—charismatic hippies who use their house as a crash pad on journeys to and from a commune in a remote corner of the Marlborough Sounds. Arriving by power of thumb, horseback and hooped canvas caravan, John of Saratoga, Eddie Fox, Jewels and company set about rearranging the lives and consciousness of the blasted family unit.
In the Time of the Manaroans brilliantly captures a largely unwritten historical culture, the Antipodean incarnation of the Back to the Land movement. Contrarian, idealistic, sexually opportunistic and self-mythologising too, this was a movement, as the narrator duly discovers, not conceived with adolescents in mind.