It’s a group to which many of us already belong or will eventually – the adult orphans club. In her introduction to this collection of stories by some of Australia’s finest writers, Susan Wyndham, the literary editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, describes how she spent hours collecting stories from middle-aged men and women whose mother or father, or both, had died or were nearing death. The book is a tribute to the mothers and fathers of the 14 contributors.
The stories are about lifelong relationships, but they also explore the loving, quirky, funny, sad, maddening lives of parents and children. The authors courageously lay bare their feelings as a parent went through the dying process, and they also describe how grief affected them afterwards, in what Wyndham calls ‘the survivor’s uneven arc of acceptance’.
This beautifully written book brings different perspectives on a parent’s death or the process of dying from writers such as Thomas Keneally, Caroline Baum, Helen Garner and Susan Wyndham herself.
Thomas Keneally reminds us of a child’s striving to please parents, no matter how old the child. David Marr found that his mother had been the clearing house for family news, so after her death the siblings had to deal directly with each other, marking a change in family dynamics.
Many writers felt the subtle change of becoming the head of their own family, with no backstop, but some were utterly candid about their sometimes prickly relationships with parents, living or dead.
For newly bereaved adult children, this book and its gamut of emotions provides
a welcome guide to the club.
Allen & Unwin
Good for Reading Groups
Reviewed by Jennifer Somerville