In this award-winning memoir, two sisters reckon with the convalescence and death of their outlandishly tyrannical mother and the care of their psychologically terrorized father, all relayed with dark humour and brutal honesty.
When Vicki and her sister learn their mother has been hospitalized for a broken hip, they return to their parents' home in Alberta to put things back in order. Though their parents disowned them years before, the sisters now reassert themselves in the dysfunctional household: their father, undernourished and suffering from Stockholm syndrome, is unable to see that he is in danger from his outlandish and vindictive wife. Rearranging their lives to be the daughters they were never allowed to be, the sisters focus their efforts on helping their father cope with the unending manipulations of their mother, and must encounter all the characters common in the circus of caretaking--oddball nurses and home helpers; over-opinionated hospital staff who have fallen for their mother's compulsive lies--along with the pressures that come with caring for elderly loved (and sometimes unloved) ones.
Set against the natural world of remotest Alberta ("in winter the cold will kill you, nothing personal"), this memoir--at once dark and hopeful--shatters precedents about grief, anger and family trauma with surprising tenderness and humour.
VICKI LAVEAU-HARVIE was born in Canada, and lived for many years in France before settling in Australia. In France, she worked as a translator and a business editor, despite being a specialist in eighteenth-century French literature. In Sydney, she lectured in French Studies at Macquarie University. After retiring, she taught ethics in a primary school. The Erratics won the 2018 Finch Memoir Prize and was the winner of the 2019 Stella Prize. She has also won prizes for short fiction and poetry.
"A searing, brilliantly-written memoir about a cunning and destructive mother; reads like a novel." —Margaret Atwood, via Twitter
"Deeply poignant and darkly humorous." —The Sydney Morning Herald
"Somehow, despite the dark subject matter, this book has a smile at its core, and Laveau-Harvie shows constant wit when depicting some harrowing times. The narrative is brimming with honesty, the narrator somehow manages to see all viewpoints, and we are rewarded with an evocative and expansive view of a family that has more than its fair share of dysfunction." —Australia's Stella Prize Judge’s Report
"Piercing, honest and oddly hilarious." —The Globe and Mail
"With moments of tenderness, The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie evokes the Canadian winter and the trauma of living with a manipulative parent. . . . While Laveau-Harvie's warmth and good humour came across, her book sounded like misery memoir. But no. Her agile humour—albeit of the gallows variety—transforms it into something quite of its own genre." —The Guardian (Australia)
"Laveau-Harvie has packed a lifetime of hurt, confusion and disorientation into this slim volume. Words have layers: seemingly innocuous questions can unearth complex trauma. . . . Humour animates the narrative of The Erratics . . . and sustains Laveau-Harvie's hope." —Sydney Review of Books
"A sharp gemstone of a book, both moving and darkly funny, about a daughter trying her best to love her very, very difficult mother." —David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife
"The Erratics grabbed me by the throat and never let go. Its sharp vinegary tone added a thrilling and bracing note to this portrayal of an extreme dysfunctional family. The writing has a visceral quality as well as a terrific sense of timing, irony and place—an unfamiliar and remote location far removed from Australia, but the author's tug back to Australia from this cold, inhospitable setting adds another dimension of contrast. There is a universality to the story, of ageing parents and conflicted children grappling with uncomfortable responsibilities. I loved it." —Caroline Baum, author of Only
"If someone had told me this manuscript was by a young Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro, I wouldn't have been surprised. The bleak beauty of the Canadian landscape set against this wry memoir of a daughter's journey with her sister through their parents' decline into ill-health and dementia is an extraordinary read." —Candida Baker