Book Review: Ten Thousand Aftershocks by Michelle Tom

“Family.

Faultlines.

Fallout:

A memoir”

Ten Thousand Aftershocks by Michelle Tom

A powerful, poetic and moving memoir of family, violence and estrangement, from a stunning new literary voice.

After Michelle Tom’s house was damaged by a deadly magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, she and her young family suffered through another 10,000 aftershocks before finally relocating to the stability of Melbourne, Australia. But soon after arriving, Michelle received the news that her estranged sister was dying. Determined to reconnect before her sister died, Michelle flew home to visit, and memories of childhood flooded back.

Through remembered fragments, and told through the five stages of an earthquake, Michelle Tom explores the similarities between seismic upheaval and her own family’s tragedies: her sister’s terminal illness, her brother’s struggle with schizophrenia and ultimate suicide, the sudden death of her father, her own panic disorder and through it all, one overarching battle – her lifelong struggle to form a healthy connection with her mother.

A powerful, poetic and moving memoir of family, violence and estrangement, Ten Thousand Aftershocks weaves together seismic upheaval and one family’s trauma and tragedies in a series of ever-widening and far-reaching emotional aftershocks, in a beautifully written and compelling account of a dark family drama. For readers of The Erratics and One Hundred Years of Dirt.

My Review

In 2011, Michelle Tom lived through the Christchurch Earthquake and then ten thousand aftershocks before they pack up their lives and escaped to Melbourne. Soon afterwards, she is brought back to New Zealand to deal with an emergency in her dysfunctional family and the memories that are so often associated with that.

Ten Thousand Aftershocks is told in fragments through the five stages of an earthquake. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story as bits and pieces of the earthquake are interspersed with childhood memories and what was happening in the present. Not unlike how we trauma is experienced.

The prose is hauntingly poetic and the fragmented nature worked incredibly well for this shocking true story about trauma, tragedies, and dysfunctional family drama. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.

Details

Title: Ten Thousand Aftershocks

Author: Michelle Tom

Published: September 1, 2021 by 4th Estate AU/HarperCollins

Format: Paperback 369 pages

Source: Own Copy

Goodreads Reviews: Ten Thousand Aftershocks

Ten Thousand Aftershocks and Zeus

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s taken me ages to be able to sit down and write a review for this book. I just couldn’t eatpraylovedecide whether I loved it or hated it! I’ve decided to meet myself halfway and am rating Eat Pray Love 3 stars, because there were parts I enjoyed and parts that I really hated.

Elizabeth Gilbert is in her 30s and having a bit of a breakdown. She appears to be living the dream New York lifestyle with a successful career, nice house and marriage, but she finds herself depressed and searching for God on the bathroom floor. This seems to be the catalysis for her quest, but it’s difficult to relate to her here, because she refuses to discuss the issues with her marriage at all.

So, she decides to take off for 12 months to find either God or herself. I’m still not really sure which one! Her itinerary includes Italy (to eat), India (to pray), and Indonesia (to love).

In Italy she learns Italian and eats a lot. This was my favourite section!

In India she prays at her guru’s ashram. This was the most boring section for me. The concept of a ‘guru’ who she never even meets is a bit far-fetched! Plus there was far too much navel-gazing and discussion of all the totally crazy thoughts that went through her mind here. I’ve got too much going on in my own mind to worry about anybody else’s! Although I did practice a little bit more yoga and meditation while I was reading this section, so that’s a bonus.

In Indonesia she apparently learns about love from a medicine man, raises money for an Indonesian woman to buy a house, and falls in love. I enjoyed Indonesia until Gilbert met her now husband. I feel like it took away from the empowering message the novel was attempting to convey by ending it with the author seemingly happy now because she’s found a man.

What I enjoyed most about Eat Pray Love was the writing style. Gilbert is a good writer and quite funny and endearing in parts. Although some parts really did tend towards narcissism, I don’t think that was the intent. I felt as though the novel was written with good intentions.

The biggest issue for me is that Gilbert’s lifestyle is so unattainable for the majority of the millions of people who have read Eat Pray Love. I’m sure everybody suffering from depression would love to take a 12 month paid vacation to travel around the world and then make millions of dollars by writing about their trip, but that’s just not going to happen for everyone. I would also like to point out that you really don’t need to go to so much effort to do similar things for yourself. You can treat yourself right where you are. Take a class at your local community centre, read a good book, listen to your favourite music, eat good food etc. You learn more about religion, yoga, meditation etc in your own city. And love the people you’re with right now. You also do not need a partner to be able to love yourself!!

Description

In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want–husband, country home, successful career–but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

Details

Title: Eat Pray Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Published: Riverhead Books, 2006

ISBN: 0143038419 (ISBN13: 9780143038412)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel, Spirituality

Pages: 334

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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