Summer reads: Getting real with Patrick Gower, Toni Street, Simon Bridges and Sonny Bill Williams

The New Zealand Herald is bringing back some of the best premium stories of 2021. Today we take a look at high-profile New Zealanders and the stories they’ve shared over the past year.

Patrick Gower on P, politics and almost losing an eye

It started, on March 12 this year, with floaters in his left eye — quite common, no big deal — but then they started getting bigger and within a few minutes he realised he was in trouble.

The retina in his left eye had detached. What he needed, to stop him going blind, was emergency surgery. It was not the first time it had happened.

His sight came back, but not all of it, and he was left with the knowledge that his retina could detach again at any time. He was unable to work. He was unable to do pretty much anything.

It wasn’t the first time he’d been through something like this. In 2017, he left the parliamentary press gallery after having what he describes as a mental breakdown. He says he became paranoid and initially tried to hide it and, although he eventually spoke openly about it, he still finds it difficult to articulate exactly what happened.

Read the full story here.

Toni Street on losing three siblings: 'We are a close family because of what happened to us'

Toni Street is the famous Street: one of the nation’s most-recognisable and beloved faces from her time on Breakfast, Seven Sharp and as one of the country’s best sports broadcasters. And while Lost and Found is Toni’s story, the star of the book is her mother Wendy, whose suffering has been so great as to appear at times unsurvivable. She has not just survived, but has pulled her family through it with her.

Together Toni and Wendy tell Greg Bruce how their family made it through unimaginable grief.

Read the full story here.

Simon Bridges on his new book – and the dig that left him in tears

As suggested by his book’s title, National Identity is a reflection not just on Simon Bridge’s own life, but on the life of the country. Reflection is something he feels we don’t do enough in what he calls our, “Good times, rugby, beach-going culture.” He worries, he says, about New Zealand being a “complacent, lifestyle nation.” His hope is that the book will help people, from any political persuasion, think more about who we are and that doing so will make this a better place to live.

But, in its personal focus and almost ostentatious avoidance of big issues – the cover reads “NOT A POLITICAL MEMOIR” – the book feels a bit like a sequel to the now-famous video of him at his sister’s farm, soon after he was deposed as National leader, walking with a baby yak named Hope: a post that, depending on your point of view, showed him either discovering meaning in life beyond top-level political leadership or charming his way back into it.

Bridges talks to Greg Bruce about his new book and his new life.

Read the full story here.

Sex, drugs and a sporting tell-all? Sonny Bill Williams has finally found his voice

From a shy teenager to a sporting superstar and now a champion for refugee rights, Sonny Bill Williams describes himself as a work in progress.

You Can’t Stop the Sun from Shining is 300-plus, hard-backed pages of Williams’ attempt to unbury his past. Written in conjunction with Alan Duff, the author most famous for Once Were Warriors, they had been talking about the collaboration since 2017. Williams told the Weekend Herald he’d been approached “a few times” to do a book, acknowledging that a couple had already been written without his involvement.

Why now?

Read the full story here.

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