Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

"At the bottom of the list, giving in to despair, I write: front loader. To shift what is in this house."

I was in two minds about starting this book. Having parents that are starting to show the signs of wear and tear that come with the approach of the seventies/eighties and after a recent very trying illness of one of them; the subject matter was almost going to put me off. However, when the book took out the Stella prize, I was moved off the fence and dived in. I'm so glad I did.

The author so brilliantly captures the dark humour that these circumstances elicit. Here we have some pretty extreme circumstances and yet they are brilliantly realised in a way that is so relatable. The writing is fantastic. It cleverly evokes that sense of shame and despair and uncertainty about who is losing their mind - the carer or the patient. It shines a light on that really difficult stage of coming to terms with the people who raised you now requiring looking after. Perhaps that is a true coming of age story. When responsibilities completely shift axis. It is also more confronting as it is a true marker of our own mortality and the fear that we too will be rendered incapable in the future.

The way Laveau-Harvie depicts the relationship with the sister searingly depicts the further complications of grown up sibling interactions, particularly when both parties hold different views about the status of their parents and what actions should be taken.

The pages just seemed to vanish as I read this one at an alarmingly fast pace.  It was a well deserved winner and I'm very jealous that I couldn't turn my recent experiences into such a compelling book.

Like Douglas Coupland said "All families are psychotic. Everybody has basically the same family - it's just reconfigured slightly different from one to the next.” I think that's why this novel strikes such a chord.

5 out of 5 - I've warned my folks they're retiring to an endless world cruise one day.

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