Monday, April 15, 2019

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE :: Jesse Blackadder

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

More than 40 years in the making, Australian author Jesse Blackadder's In the Blink of an Eye is a searing yet mesmerizing look at a family in turmoil following the loss of a child. Finn and Bridget Brennan move from Tasmania to New South Wales with their sons, Jarrah and Toby, hoping for a fresh start. Finn's metal sculpture work is tapped for a big show, and he's busy in his studio one morning while Bridget watches Toby. Neither notices the toddler enter the pool area despite the intricate, decorative safety gates Finn designed and installed.

Toby's death sends each Brennan spinning into their separate hells--"We were like the particles after the Big Bang, flying apart, spreading at the speed of light to different points in the universe." Blackadder's insight into disparate suffering stems authentically from her childhood experience; decades ago she wrote a fictional account of her sister's death. Only recently, after becoming an award-winning author of several books for adults and kids, did she feel emotionally prepared to publish it.

The result is a layered, multi-perspective spiral through grief, blame and the raw emotional and relational shifts that come with tragic loss. Bridget needs, but is repelled by her husband; Finn accepts fault to protect his wife; Jarrah is lost in the fragile reshuffling. Blackadder's writing is fluid, beautifully brutal and no-holds-barred in its depiction of trauma and a family whose need for comfort is lost in the fury "soldered onto the foundations" of their beings.

STREET SENSE: This one is not my normal fare, but it was assigned and I try to read as many Australian authors and works as I can, so I gave it a go. It immediately struck me how in tune Blackadder seemed to be with the many elements of momentous loss. I looked her up and read her story and it all clicked. The subject matter of this book sucks, but it's really well done.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: [Y]ou've stitched together someone to be and those threads are so thin and stretched that anything might snap them. You've created a person who might be able to get through, a person who can forget, for some moments here and there, dragging her drowned son from the water.

COVER NERD SAYS:  To be frank, I'm a bit tired of the "woman from behind" cover art. While the washed out nature of this image makes sense considering what lies inside, it seems like something that would disappear on a display or table of a bookstore. There's nothing to draw *my* eye, but that kind of fits with the fact that this isn't a book that would normally hit my book sweet spot, so maybe it's perfect for a different audience.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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