Book Review: The Erratics

Book by: Vicki Laveau-Harvie

Review: Be it a book, film or theatre performance, I judge it on how it makes me feel. It’s not just entertainment I seek, it’s an emotional response that I want most of all. This can be the pleasure of undiluted joy and perhaps the excitement of having my curiosity tapped into, or even the provocation of overwhelming sadness. Laveau-Harvie’s memoir has the sheen of comic levity offering just the right amount of balm to her family’s story, it’s the abrasiveness and the toxicity of the destructive co-dependent relationships that really prickles. For some it may even prompt questions about the longer-term effects of our own familial ties and their residual effects, like those we see with the two sisters’ lives we glimpse into. It certainly is riveting, as all traumatic stories are.

Pages: 224

Genre: Memoir, Autobiography

Awards: Finch Memoir Prize 2018, The Stella Prize 2019

Reviewer: Jody

Book Blurb: Dark, sharp, blackly funny and powerful, this is memoir, wielded as weapon, with the tightly compressed energy of an explosive device.

‘We’ve been disowned and disinherited: there’s not changing it, I say. When something bad happens to them, we’ll know soon enough and we’ll deal with it together. I don’t realise it at the time, but when I say that, I imply I care. I imply there may be something to be salvaged. I misspeak. But I’m flying out anyway. Blood calls to blood; what can I tell you.’

This is a memoir about a dysfunctional family, about a mother and her daughters. But make no mistake. This is like no mother-daughter relationship you know.

When Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s elderly mother is hospitalised unexpectedly, Vicki and her sister travel to their parents’ isolated ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help their father. Estranged from their parents for many years, Vicki and her sister are horrified by what they discover on their arrival. For years, Vicki’s mother has camouflaged her manic delusions and savage unpredictability, and over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world, systematically starving him and making him a virtual prisoner in his own home. Vicki and her sister have a lot to do, in very little time, to save their father. And at every step they have to contend with their mother, whose favourite phrase during their childhood was: ‘I’ll get you and you won’t even know I’m doing it.’

A ferocious, sharp, darkly funny and wholly compelling memoir of families, the pain they can inflict and the legacy they leave, The Erratics has the tightly coiled, compressed energy of an explosive device – it will take your breath away.

Book Review: The Overstory

By: Richard Powers

Review:

The Overstory is nothing short of epic. The writing is original, insightful and challenging. I feel like I’ve been led on a journey through the forest of Powers mind, and it is a place of ‘fluid beauty’ (p.61). Like the central character – the trees – the storyline spirals out like annual growth rings, building layers of sublime narrative to merge the deep connections of humanity and nature. One of the many messages is that we need to listen with more humility and then perhaps we might be able to see.

‘The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story’ (p. 336). And Powers sure has delivered just that, a story that’s impossible not to be changed by.

Pages: 493

Genre: Literary Fiction

Awards: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

Reviewer: Jody

Book Blurb:

The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond:

An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling in a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A Hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing and speech impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another.

These four, and five other strangers – each summoned in different ways by trees – are brought together in a last violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest. There is a world alongside ours – vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

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