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Book review: The Erratics by Vicki Laveau Harvie

The Erratics is the story of the rescue of Vicki Laveau Harvie’s father from the clutches of his cruel wife. Travelling from her home in Australia to the prairie landscape of Alberta, Canada, where she grew up, Laveau Harvie’s memoir begins after her mother’s hip crumbles, requiring hospital rehabilitation.

It is the opportunity she and her sister need to ensure their mother can never return to the home where she has been starving her husband until he is unrecognisably thin and frail.

In the audiobook, Laveau Harvie tells her own story, and it is mesmerising. I felt embraced by her gentle and thin voice as she recounted the strategies she and her sister used to pull off the great removal of their mother.

It is clear that underneath the regular humour of the storytelling, there is great pain. Laveau and her sister’s treatment as children is alluded to, but is not often expanded upon. There was the time that her mother snipped off her ponytail after she had mused that she might get her hair cut, and her cruel words that continued throughout her life.

But there is a clear sense of trauma endured by the girls, who their mother later claimed had died, or had never existed at all.

The brittle relationships between the girls and their parents are reflected in the sparse landscape, where eagles soared and neighbours were unlikely to knock on the door after dark. There were times, Laveau Harvie writes, when a blizzard made the roads unpassable, or when a crocus emerged from the snow, bringing of an eventual thawing.

This is a family story like none that I have read – it is funny, personal and honest. It is also is a melancholy novel of change, acceptance and the complexity of family.

Laveau Harvie writes with great beauty of relationships, places and the passage of time, and I thoroughly enjoyed her reflections on lives lived and passing.

The Erratics is available at Booktopia (Australia) and The Book Depository (the US and UK).

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