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By Miriam Sharland

Muted hue graphic of the night with an owl and moths at a forest's lake edge.

Miriam Sharland’s eco-memoir Heart Stood Still is the latest title in the Ka Haea Te Ata series from Otago University Press, a series dedicated to casting light on issues of importance in Aotearoa today.

In early 2020 Sharland was nearing the end of a 17-year adventure in Aotearoa. A desire to return to family and the familiar was pulling her back to her homeland, England. When Covid put an end to her travel plans, she found herself facing isolation in Manawatū instead.

Despite her initial unhappiness, Sharland came to see this strange and unexpected time as a gift – an opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the home she’d known for many years but had not fully seen or appreciated. Her explorations were grounding, and she began to examine what it means to truly ‘belong.’

Heart Stood Still is a record of Sharland’s journey towards finding healing in the world’s natural beauty, a beauty that we must fight to protect in the current climate crisis. It is both a memoir and a lyrical portrait of Manawatū. Through a series of personal essays that follow the pattern of the seasons, Sharland skilfully weaves reflections on her life and family history with observations on the native and introduced plants and animals about her; all tinged with her experience as ‘an unsettled settler’ in Aotearoa.

Readers who enjoy books such as Olivia Laing’s To the River (2017), Ingrid Horrocks’ Where We Swim (2020) and Patricia Grace’s From the Centre (2021) will appreciate the quiet, contemplative nature of Heart Stood Still.


Miriam Sharland is a writer and editor focusing on creative non-fiction, travel, biography/memoir and natural history. Based in England and Aotearoa New Zealand, her essays, reviews and features have appeared in numerous books, journals, magazines and newspapers, and online. These include Reader’s Digest, The Dark Mountain Project, The Dominion Post, Headland and Adventure Travel. In 2021 she was awarded a writing grant from the Earle Creativity Trust and in 2022 she was runner-up in the New Zealand Society of Authors Central Districts summer essay competition. Heart Stood Still is her first book.

Publication details

Heart Stood Still is a part of the Ka Haea Te Ata series by Otago University Press.
Ka Haea Te Ata: books that cast light on issues of importance in Aotearoa today.

Paperback, 210 x 148mm
ISBN 9781990048708, RRP $35
Release date: April 22, 2024

Reviews and interviews

Review: “What started out really as a sort of garden diary, nature diary, became a much bigger exploration of how it felt to be a migrant and the sort of unsettled feelings that I’d had for quite a long time.” – Miriam Sharland speaks to Kiah Radcliffe for the Manawatū Standard Read

Review: "As I followed her on her journey, I was captivated by the way she looked so mindfully at the trees, the birds, and the landscape, and how much this lifted her spirits and was an antidote to the unhappiness and loneliness she initially felt during lockdown. It also made me want to revisit the Manawatū region and discover some of the hidden gems she describes..." Lyn Potter reviews Heart Stood Still by Miriam Sharland for NZ Booklovers Read

Extract: Read an extract from Heart Stood Still on Kete Books.

Extract: Read an extract from Heart Stood Still on Newsroom.

Interview: Miriam Sharland speaks to Morrin Rout on Bookenz Plains FM Listen

Review: 'Sharland's skill is such that I found myself eager to read what kind of mushroom she would stumble across next ... Heart Stood Still shows deeply communicative lives unfolding in gardens and along bike paths.' – Amber French for North & South June Issue Find out more

Interview: 'I thought it’s so lovely with everybody walking and cycling and saying hello to each other and there’s not loads of traffic and there’s not loads of noise. We all thought maybe we should slow our lives down a little bit and then just practically overnight everything just went back to how it had been before.' – Miriam Sharland speaks to Judith Lacy for the Manawatū Guardian Read

Interview: Miriam Sharland speaks about her book with Massey University Read

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