'Trauma fatigie'

2011-05-25 00:00

I WANT to establish a new literary genre called “cathartica”, or maybe “suffer literature” in the vein of struggle theatre.

This is the kind of work that seems to have been written as a form of psychological therapy: the venting of emotions and experiences as part of recovery from trauma. Much current local non-fiction writing seems to be this kind of personal narrative: conquering Everest,anorexia, cancer, surviving an abusive marriage, or recovering from substance addiction etc. Forgive me for sounding uncaring, but I think I have “trauma fatigue”. I want to respond as many people do to the daily newspapers and say: “Enough. Give me some good news.”

The details of suffering that life dishes out to many people are rich pickings for this kind of tell-all, navel-gazing writing. Reflecting on any experience is critical to learning from it, rising above it and perhaps recovering from it. The deal that life dealt Raal and her son, Zack, was undoubtedly raw.

He was born in 2004 with a congenital heart defect and had to have major surgery at 10 days’ old. He has been in and out of the cardiac unit at Sunninghill Hospital and doctors’ surgeries ever since.

Raal is a freelance journalist. She lays bare the emotions that go with parenting a child who has a life-threatening condition: sickening worry, fear, helplessness, anger and heartbreak. Although she writes competently, this book just did not move me in the same way as other works of “cathartica” have. My thoroughly non-scientific test of books is whether I want to keep them on my shelf and recommend them to others. This one I do not.

However, I did love the title, which could be as much about the mending of Raal’s metaphorical broken heart as it is about Zack’s physical heart; and the cover, a beautiful, whimsical image that perfectly captures the story within.

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