A celebrated Australian poet of aboriginal ancestry searches for her birth parents and for meaning in the face of adversity.
Simple prose belies a heavy heart in this straightforward but subtly heartbreaking chronicle of trauma and tragedy by poet Eckermann (Ruby Moonlight, 2015, etc.), a winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize. Punctuated by equally spare, muted poems, her stories offer happiness only in flashes, couched within moments of pain and grief. The litany of horrors began with a molestation by a family friend as a child. “He had put his body on mine, and I couldn’t move,” she writes. “And the icy wind was screeching around and around inside my whole body. Ice cold tears forced their way out of my eyes down my cheeks.” In adolescence, the author turned to alcohol and drugs, a time she portrays in an extended sequence that shows terrible alienation from her adoptive parents, her friends, and a white culture that ostracized her. Eventually, Eckermann ran away with an abusive boyfriend who “punched me in the face every payday.” The author had a baby and gave him up for adoption, then lived a vagabond life, taking odd jobs to make ends meet. She shattered her legs in a motorcycle crash, experienced a lousy first marriage, a miscarriage, and suicidal thoughts. After a stint in rehab, she decided to find her birth mother again as well as her grown son. When she did, she was quickly adopted by her extended family, and the memoir finally takes a welcome, poignant turn away from horror. “I learn that I can’t fully live their traditional lifestyle, and that they can’t live mine,” she writes. “So we compromise. My family teach me bush way, and I teach them the whitefella ways. We grow smarter and stronger as one. Together we are family.”
A subdued memoir about shouldering pain, owning decisions, and finding a voice.