Mem­o­ries of lives found and lost

Get Well Soon! My (Un)bril­liant Ca­reer as a Nurse

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Alis­tair Jones

By Kristy Cham­bers Univer­sity of Queens­land Press, 235pp, $24.95 By Amy Choi Tran­sit Lounge, 252pp, $29.99 By Gin­ger Briggs Af­firm Press, 297pp, $24.99

APalimpsest. Christ­mas visit to the kalei­do­scopic gam­ing is­land of Ma­cau where Choi’s par­ents have bought a re­tire­ment apart­ment.

Choi has a wry tone with a quirky eye for de­tail, though her first im­pres­sions of Europe seem fairly stan­dard. Ma­cau and Hong Kong are more colour­fully evoked through the prism of her fam­ily’s lo­cal knowl­edge. Play­ing House is en­joy­able but Choi’s self-ab­sorp­tion some­how pre­vents ev­ery­one else, even Scott, from lift­ing off the page, ex­cept per­haps Ly­dia.

is not a mem­oir. It’s a cre­ative work of non­fic­tion about real peo­ple, in­spired by what could be con­sid­ered an un­pub­lished mem­oir: a record of events writ­ten as ther­apy by a shat­tered cri­sis worker named Mez. Mel­bourne writer Gin­ger Briggs has used this ma­te­rial to re­con­struct the har­row­ing life story of An­drew, a ward of the state. Mez ap­pears to have been the only one of his car­ers to have ac­tu­ally cared.

An­drew was aban­doned at birth and beaten by a bas­tard step­fa­ther be­fore be­ing legally re­nounced by his adop­tive par­ents when he was 10. By 1984, he had been in­tro­duced to drugs and sex­u­ally abused by a preda­tory so­cial worker be­fore wash­ing up, ema­ci­ated and cow­er­ing like a dog that had been hit by a car’’, at Wakma Re­cep­tion Cen­tre in Vic­to­ria, aged 12.

Mez was on duty and took the quiv­er­ing blond boy un­der her wing, pro­vid­ing a trust­wor­thy kind­ness An­drew had never known. Mez was barely 20 at the time and had no for­mal train­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, she could be only a respite. When­ever she was out of the pic­ture, An­drew’s demons from years of ne­glect fired up a chaotic cy­cle of self­de­struc­tion.

is well put to­gether and en­tirely heart-wrench­ing. If it can as­sist in bring­ing about pos­i­tive change by draw­ing at­ten­tion to an on­go­ing sys­tem that pun­ishes chil­dren for not hav­ing par­ents, Briggs will have put Mez’s trou­bled mem­o­ries to good use.

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