New novel: ‘Baby’ by Annaleese Jochems

‘Cynthia can understand how Anahera feels just by looking at her body.’

Cynthia is twenty-one, bored and desperately waiting for something big to happen. Her striking fitness instructor, Anahera, is ready to throw in the towel on her job and marriage. With stolen money and a dog in tow they run away and buy ‘Baby’, an old boat docked in the Bay of Islands, where Cynthia dreams they will live in a state of love. But strange events on an empty island turn their life together in a different direction.

Baby is a sunburnt psychological thriller of obsession and escape by one of the most exciting new voices in New Zealand fiction.


Northlander Annaleese Jochems released her debut novel towards the end of 2017 and it’s been receiving rave reviews (

Annaleese, who grew up in Maramaku and Pakaraka and now lives in Wellington, is proof of how far Northlanders can go.

Born in 1994, attended Okaihau College. Annaleese won the 2016 Adam Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Annaleese says she likes writing about the north “because it’s my home and because the colours there are better than anywhere else.”


Buy the book. ISBN: 9781776561667

baby cover

Sample chapters 16-17:



They’re having a fabulous conversation, where words mean more than they do, and everything is true. ‘We don’t always understand each other,’ Anahera has said, very frankly, and Cynthia has nodded.

Now Cynthia adds, ‘We don’t, no, no, we don’t,’ and she laughs. ‘We’re very different, but I try, and you try, and that’s what counts.’

Anahera sips her rum, and nods. They look at each other, and this is what Cynthia has always wanted to feel—that by making eye-contact with a dear, special person, she might become eternal. She feels it now, she feels herself expanding, and the enormous water laps at their boat from below.

The sun returns to them stronger with each day, and Cynthia stops counting them. Quickly, they finish the first bottle of rum, and Anahera produces a second. They lie close, nearly on top of each other, and at every full stop, between the sentences in Cynthia’s romance novels, she imagines rolling over, against Anahera, and telling her the dirty, truthful facts of her desire. Sometimes, Anahera herself rolls over and she says nothing, but Cynthia thinks her eyes press forward, like fingers. She’s sure they both know, and are both waiting.

Cynthia could list her needs, and all of them are love. She could list what she’s paid, given and sacrificed to Anahera, and it’s so much more than money now. It’s everything.

Anahera’s swims are longer, twice as long. But Cynthia’s happy for her—she must be even fitter!—and the time between them seems to have expanded. When Anahera’s gone, Cynthia remembers Snot-head and wonders where he might be. She plucks herself, looks in the mirror and feels sad, but each time Anahera returns she’s always pleased, and beautiful again.




They’re re-reading their books now, which is a bit boring, but in a lovely, predictable way. Anahera gets up, slowly and hardly using her arms to lift her weight, and goes around the side of the boat and into the toilet. Cynthia sits still and watches the door once she’s shut it. It takes Anahera less than three minutes to re-emerge. When she does, instead of returning to the sun and to Cynthia, she sits down at the table and looks into her phone, then types something. A message, she’s sent it. Then she looks up and sees Cynthia watching through the window. She looks back, and sets her shoulders.

This is the third time this has happened, but Cynthia knows that if asked, Anahera will assert her right to text whoever she likes. So, Cynthia rearranges her book in her lap, and peers down into it.

When Anahera’s settled back onto her belly and elbows to read, Cynthia gazes down into the parting of her hair, and sees it as a crevasse. She asks, ‘Where do you swim to?’

‘Oh,’ Anahera shuffles up, and points in the direction of an island. ‘There.’

‘To that beach?’ Cynthia asks.

‘Sometimes just towards it.’

Cynthia settles down to read then. She will not be unreasonable, she takes a glug of rum. Anahera has every right to send text messages, and visit a beach. ‘Do you want to watch The Newlywed Game with me tonight?’ she asks.

‘Yup, what’s that?’

The Newlywed Game is Cynthia’s current favourite. Some couples even got divorced because of it. They answer questions about each other, and have to predict each other’s answers to win. It’s good to watch on a phone, because the definition’s bad.


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