2020 - Shortlisted
‘This is what grief looks like’ writes Chloe Higgins, ‘an inability to speak’; a wave of sorrow and loss that stuns and silences, overcoming mind and body. In 2005, when Higgins was 17, her younger sisters were killed when the car their father was driving veered into oncoming traffic. Her father survived. Higgins and her mother were not in the car. Now in her early thirties, she has wrung this impressive debut after experiencing more than a decade’s physical and emotional turmoil as her grief continued to unfold. Higgins’ voice – raw, intimate and direct – rings true, sometimes unbearably so, but is never cloying or solipsistic.
One of the book’s great strengths is the way Higgins comes to understand her spiral into self-destructive behaviours and her relationship with her father, destroyed by guilt, and her more resilient mother. The Girls’ episodic, fragmentary, journal-like prose, unbound by chronology or narrative convention, collapses past and present into one abiding moment. This is a memoir that looks death, loneliness and grief in the eye; and allows readers to understand how the act of writing finally enables Higgins to remember ‘the girls’ – Lisa and Carlie.