2019 - Shortlisted
This is a memoir about family traumas being passed down and replicated and their diverse mutations. It shows catastrophes which are sudden and physically violent, or slow stealthy erosions of the psyche; how they manifest and endure in the human body, as well as in the mind; and how they can sometimes be miraculously surmounted. Rick Morton experienced unimaginable trauma growing up in a farming dynasty whose holdings encompassed four percent of the Australian landmass and one hundred years of dirt. The victim of casual and brutal masculinities, a horrific accident drove his mother and her children into a nightmare of poverty, drug addiction, and tenacious survival. Despite a relentless cycle of ill-luck, Morton somehow comes to terms with his demons and forges his career as a journalist.
Not since George Orwell has the grinding, humiliating, life-sapping horror of working-class deprivation and inequality been better portrayed. Morton is never mawkish or self-indulgent; his prose is flinty, abrasive, candid; harsh and pitiless, funny and ironic, tender and compassionate. The book is written with a white-hot urgency. It is a tale that needs to be told; for others who have undergone similar ordeals, and for his resilient wonderful mother and the friends who helped him survive and rebuild. It is a book which cannot be read without feeling angry, sad, and inspired.