‘We’ve been disowned and disinherited: there’s no changing it, I say. When something bad happens to them, we’ll know soon enough and we’ll deal with it together. I don’t realise it at the time, but when I say that, I imply I care. I imply there may be something to be salvaged. I misspeak. But I’m flying out anyway. Blood calls to blood; what can I tell you.’
There is a lot packed into those few brief sentences and it doesn’t let up. Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s memoir The Erratics is dark, sharp, blackly funny, and powerful.
This is a memoir about a dysfunctional family, about a mother and her daughters. But make no mistake: this is like no other mother-daughter relationship you know.
When Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s elderly mother is hospitalised unexpectedly, Vicki and her sister travel to their parents’ isolated ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help their father. Estranged from their parents for many years, Vicki and her sister are horrified by what they discover.
For years, Vicki’s mother has camouflaged manic delusions and savage unpredictability, and over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world, systematically starving him and making him a virtual prisoner in his own home.
Vicki and her sister have a lot to do, in very little time, to save their father. And at every step they have to contend with their mother, whose favourite phrase during their childhood was: ‘I’ll get you and you won’t even know I’m doing it’.
After reading that, perhaps it is no wonder that Vicki Laveau-Harvie now lives in Australia. Born in Canada, she lived for many years in France before settling here.
Vicki’s writing has been compared to the work of Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. This year she was the winner of the Stella Prize and in 2018 the Finch Memoir Prize.
You can hear more of Vicki’s extraordinary story at Byron Writers Festival on Friday 2 August on the panel Memoir: Running in the Family with Andrew Stafford, Rick Morton, and Caro Llewellyn and at two sessions on Saturday 3 August, Winning Prizes: The Pressure Test and My Stella Year in conversation with The Stella Prize judge Kate McClymont
For 1-day or 3-day passes, head to byronwritersfestival.com/tickets.
The Grans slammed at yesterdays screening of the first Gran Slam poetry competition at the Byron Writers Festival.
Now more than ever our world needs writers, environmentalists, poets, commentators, politicians, and artists who together can shape stories of hope, courage, and change. At Byron Writers Festival 2019 we proudly bring more than 140 writers together to create a program brimming with diverse voices.
Check out what's to love at the Byron Writers Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.