Author: Jesse Blackadder
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Jesse Blackadder has written a heartbreaking exploration of grief and loss that is sure to tug the heartstrings.
Sixty Seconds is the amount of time it took to tear apart the foundations of a family and leave them floundering in a tumultuous sea of grief and rage and loneliness.
I found Sixty Seconds to be a book that I didn’t want to put down, I had to keep flicking pages to find out what happened next; but when I did put it down it often took a while for me to pick it back up. I knew that I had to be in the right place to invest myself in the story, and hopefully have more than a few snatched minutes to read. This story was heart breaking, as a mother it physically hurt my heart to read at times so I needed to psych myself to pick it back up knowing that it was going to hurt.
This is another one I’m struggling to review without spoilers because the blurb is pretty ambiguous.
The Brennans leave Tasmania for subtropical Murwillumbah, leaving behind all of their family and friends; everything that they know. They trade the cooler climes for sun, surf and a fresh start. They have brought Bridget’s ailing mother and moved her into a nursing home close by.
The family are getting settled and adjusting to the new routines when tragedy strikes and this is where the bones of the story lie. Sixty Seconds is the aftermath of the tragedy, the events that follow and the way the family learn to move forward.
Blackadder has written a story that is close to her heart and it is a story that has touched the lives of too many families. A story that I don’t ever want to come near my family but through it all I couldn’t help but think how easily it could. It is a story that is too common in Australia and it needs to be discussed, it needs to be in everyone’s minds so that we can all be vigilant and stop this happening to more families.
I really did find myself invested in this story and its characters. The story is told alternately by Bridget, Finn and Jarrah. We get inside their heads as they war with the tragedy that has hit the family and left them with no way to see the end of the road.
When tragedy strikes we often feel the need to lay blame, we need somewhere to direct the pain and the rage; even if it’s just to push back the emptiness for a little while. In the wake of a heartbreaking tragedy when the family should be pulling together and leaning on each other for strength they find they are drifting further apart, alone in their agony.
I found the characters relatable and realistic in their grief, their desire for someone to hold accountable. The Brennan family were vividly drawn and we got to know them well, though I didn’t quite get a clear understanding of Jarrah, I am left with some questions when it comes to him but thinking about it now… that may be because he still has those questions. They aren’t things he understands about himself yet.
In the aftermath of the tragedy we meet the people who offer much needed support in navigating the grief, and most of the cast have tragedy and loss in their lives so they can offer understanding or are there looking for some closure for themselves.
Tom is the handyman who is employed to do a couple of jobs around the house but the role he ends up filling is much more important. He is a little older than Jarrah but he has an intuitive understanding of what it is he needs and offers a run or some time just hanging out. He is a character we know has suffered loss but we don’t get to know him well.
All of the secondary characters along the way are drawn just well enough to understand their position in relation to the Brennans and in that they have the depth to be understood but we don’t really know them as people away from the Brennans, at times I thought there could have been a little more fleshing of those characters.
This is a book that broke my heart, partly because of the tragedy within it’s pages and partly because of the resonance it had to people I know. Yes, it’s tragic and heartbreaking but Blackadder took us far enough from the event that we saw the Brennans through the initial stages of grief and into the stages of healing. Blackadder drew us through the agony of heartbreak and back to a place where there is once more some light, some hope and some ability to see a future.
Jesse Blackadder explores themes of grief and loss and the long road to forgiveness alongside all of the other issues life throws at us; dementia in aging parents, bullying and finding your place as a teen, sexuality, first love, indiscretions in marriage and the many stages of grief.
Sixty Seconds is book #41 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.