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The Erratics

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  3,241 ratings  ·  318 reviews
When her elderly mother is hospitalised after an accident, Vicki is summoned to her parents' isolated and run-down ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to care for her father. She has been estranged from her parents for many years (the reasons for which become quickly clear) and is horrified by what she discovers on her arrival.

For years her mother has suffered from an undiagnos
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 21st 2018 by Finch Publishing
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  3,241 ratings  ·  318 reviews

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May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There’s no wonder this author delivers this story in an almost cold detached manner. If I had those parents...I wouldn’t be all unicorns and roses either. Her bleak outlook is understandable considering her totally inept upbringing with some of the most disturbing parenting I’ve come across. Also adding to the bleak, the harsh and cold Canadian climate, so very fitting. Neglect can be a bitter pill to swallow (I’ve been there) to navigate through life with that as your foundation, it’s hard not ...more
Nat K

2019 Winner of The Stella Prize. Deservingly so.

When a book opens with the words "Mad as a meat-axe", you know you'll be in for an interesting ride. And a bumpy one.

The crumbling hip bone of her Mum brings Vicki Laveau-Harvie traipsing back to her homeland, Canada.

"Blood calls to blood. What can I tell you."

The opening line says it all, and somewhat explains why Vicki and her sister have been estranged from their elderly parents for so many years.

There is inexplicably cruel and vitriolic beh
Most people struggle when it comes time to help their aging parents make difficult decisions about how to spend their later years when illness and frailty makes independent living difficult or impossible. For Vicki Laveau-Harvie and her sister, coping with her aging parents was made even more difficult by her mother's mental illness and their estrangement from her parents. Disowned and disinherited by her devious and malicious mother during early adulthood, Vicki lives in Australia, about as far ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
One of the things I've learnt in counselling is to pay attention to my judgements, to examine very closely what's behind my assessment of another person. In particular, what does a 'judgement' say about me (as opposed to my client)? To be clear, 95% of my time counselling is free of judgement - I listen, I try to understand and that's it. But 5% of the time, someone will say something that triggers an immediate personal reaction, and it's in that 5% where counsellors do their own work. Vicki Lav ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This dark memoir starts at the end. Vicki’s mother and father live in isolation, secluded away from civilisation in a large house in Alberta. The book opens with Vicki and her younger sister travelling to a hospital to visit their mother who has suffered from a shattered hip. This is the first time they have seen their mother in years. Vicki and her sister are estranged, disinherited from their parents for reasons they don’t know. The sisters are stunned and horri
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is written so well that I forgot it was non-fiction. A deserving winner of this years Stella Prize.
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Erratics is a memoir by Canadian-born Australian translator and author, Vicki Laveau-Harvie. It is the winner of the Finch Memoir Prize for 2018. In 2007, Vicki Laveau-Harvie and her sister, in response to the news that their mother has broken a hip, arrive in Okotoks, in Alberta’s prairie lands. They come, despite the fact that they have both been disowned, disinherited and have no legal rights where their parents are concerned. Vicki comes all the way from Sydney, Australia.

What they are
Soph Ie
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Strange book. So much potential but I was left with more questions than answers. Short and easy to read. Didn’t really go anywhere. And if I hear about your mum’s “powdered hipbone” one more time... argh! I felt it also to be so impersonal that the author referred to her sister’s partner all the time as such, and not by her name. Even a made up name would have shown some familiarity. Absolutely no family secrets are revealed so don’t hold your breath. And it was so strange that it didn’t span a ...more
Michael Livingston
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
A bleak memoir about an utterly dysfunctional family. There are moments of humour dashed into the darkness, but I found myself a bit underwhelmed by this year's Stella winner.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Here's another situation where the ability to award 1/2 stars would have been useful.

Last week Laveau-Harvie was awarded Australia's Stella Prize for this memoir and, being a sucker for a dysfunctional family story - especially one involving manipulative mothers and played daughters - I dived straight into it.

However I'm conflicted.
It's not a particularly long book, so I read it avidly and quickly. The writing is powerful - her passion for the landscape of her childhood is palpable and she desc
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Erratics is, in my opinion, the best kind of memoir- one that reads like a novel, that when you stop reading you marvel that it is true. Laveau-Harvie’s tells the story of life in her family with what is sometimes a sense of distance or detachment. It’s easy to understand this attitude, when you read about the psychologically damaging nature of the relationship between parents and children that endured throughout her parents’ lives. This is an exceptional story, that ultimately is told with ...more
Canadian Reader
not even or regular in pattern or movement; unpredictable.
"her breathing was erratic"
a rock or boulder that differs from the surrounding rock and is believed to have been brought from a distance by glacial action.

Vicki Laveau-Harvie was born in Canada but put continents between herself and her deranged parents in order to safeguard her sanity. For years she has lived and passed as a typical ratepayer in Sydney, Australia. Her sister didn’t get quite as far away.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Scratch me and you get grief. It will well up surreptitiously and slip away down any declivity, perhaps undermining the foundations but keeping a low profile and trying not to inconvenience anybody.

Scratch my sister at your peril however, because you’ll get rage, a geyser of it, like hitting oil after drilling dry, hot rock for months and it suddenly, shockingly, plumes up into the sky, black and viscous, coating everything as it falls to earth.

Take care when you scratch.”

I took a detour from m
Anna Baillie-Karas
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this memoir. Vicki Laveau-Harvie tells the story of her parents with warmth, dark humour and compelling, can’t-put-it-down prose. Her parents are dysfunctional & her mother a villain - you could not make up these stories. Laveau-Harvie is honest about how this has affected her, but sees the comic side and is a wonderfully warm, engaging story-teller. A unique story but the family issues will resonate widely. Highly recommended. I’m thrilled it won the Stella Prize. ...more
Helen Bookwoods
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I began by being extremely drawn to this account of dealing with a difficult parent in their old age. My late mother, too, was a (convincing) fantasist who turned on her daughters as we tried to help her as she declined. The incredible tension experienced when my version of things was not believed by others (doctors, health workers, social workers etc etc) was very well portrayed by the author when she encountered this. However, this is not a blow-by-blow description of what happened to Harvie a ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was so disappointed in this book after hearing an interview with the author. I kept expecting her to go a bit deeper and explain more about their background growing up and what their mum was like. Perhaps spend a bit of time digging into how her mum was the way she was.
The cover said ‘the family secrets are only just beginning to unravel’ - which seemed a bit of a misleading blurb as I kept expecting a BIG reveal of some kind of shocker. The ‘secret’ pretty much came out early on.
This book c
Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars.

This has won a ton of awards and I totally get why. The writing in this is superb. I don't think I have ever read anything that is delivered in such a detached manner but at the same time have each word so drenched in underlying pain. In fact, I felt quite overwhelmed the whole time I was reading this that I almost felt suffocated and had to force myself to keep reading (and it was only 200 pages with short chapters).

I read to escape, so this book was confronting. My re
If you think your parents are weird, non-caring, harsh or any other failings read this book. It'll make them look like saints.
When I read the book jacket I thought this would be a good (fictional) story. But it is a true story of two sisters and their relationships with their ageing mother and father in their last few years living in a remote ranch in Alberta. The sisters had been disinherited and have had little contact over nearly 20 years. The mother is an angry, vindictive, mean spirited wom
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
One of the very best things about the Stella Prize is that every year the longlist unearths one or two mysterious gems published by small presses, which hitherto have barely been on the literary radar*. The prize’s democratic judging processes encourage the careful consideration of underrated work, of books that don’t necessarily have huge marketing budgets, or are not published to widespread acclaim, reviews and sales – but that are always such a joy to discover (thank you, #stella19 bookclub!) ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most people can recount a story of a tricky family member or difficult relationship but few can assemble their thoughts with such clarity, humour and compassion - that aside few are probably recounting a relationship quite like this. This book, paced and written so beautifully, examines how despite everything family bonds are the strongest but can also be the most damaging influence in our lives. Highly recommended.
May 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars , while well written this fell short for me . I think it alluded to many things , particularly in relation to the sisters obviously dysfunctional childhood,but didn’t deliver the impact I was hoping for.
Rick Morton
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. An achingly beautiful, searching true story of madness and desperation and hope. I read this in two sittings.
“I do know this: where there is nothing, there must have been pain. That’s why there is nothing. Be glad if you forget.”

This book was recommended to me by a good friend, who really enjoyed the author’s wry sense of humour in the face of adversity, and said that it made her laugh and cry in equal measure. I held off for a while, because sometimes non-fiction is more hard work than reading a novel, but I am so glad that I finally got to it!

Laveau-Harvie indeed writes with a lot of black, self-
Lesley Moseley
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 6-stars
4 1/2 rounded up as I really enjoyed the fast paced wryly written memoir. There is so much to parallel in my own upbringing and relationships with my sister and parents. Well deserved Stella winner.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reviews
Vicki Laveau-Harvie is a retired academic and translator whose memoir The Erratics won the 2018 Finch Memoir Prize. Last month the book was longlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize.

It’s a compelling account of dealing with elderly parents — one of whom is trying to kill the other — from afar.

To read my review in full, please visit my blog.
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2019
A very interesting book. Some beautifully insightful moments but the story was told in a very detached way where it was clear there was more going on but we as readers were kept at arms length a bit. However, as the author points out, if you can’t remember something or there are gaps in your memory, there was most likely be glad you don’t remember.
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
The overriding impression I have after listening to the audiobook of The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie is an overwhelming admiration for her narration. Her voice, intonation and way of speaking is simply mesmerising. If you listen to a sample you'll see what I mean immediately.

The Erratics is a memoir about the Canadian Australian author's ageing parents and the struggle she and her sister face when her mother ends up in hospital with a broken hip. The author lives in Australia and unfortunate
Out of the Bex
A good memoir is in many ways like an exorcism. After all, something must possess you to write so expungently of more trying times. If you can just get it out, with the page as your confessional and the reader as your priest, then you might come out the other end more whole. But going through this cleansing of memory and madness takes a certain amount of mettle and grit. While it is expressly clear Laveau-Harvie has a rare gift for language, she lacked the courage to use its powers to speak any ...more
Jay-Dee Davis
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love the background story of this book. The debut book of a woman in her 70s, that is nearly out of print after the authors small publisher went out of business, wins the coveted Stella prize for 2019. Amazing. On reading this book, I’m happy to say it a completely worthy winner of the prize. Dark and gripping, I forgot I was reading a memoir. I can imagine that writing her story was incredibly cathartic, and I admire her ability to create something beautiful out of such immense dysfunction.
Cass Moriarty
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s the kind of fantastical story that captures the imaginations of writers everywhere, because – well, because it is so fantastic: a first-time author, in her mid-seventies, writes a book that wins a small prize (the Finch Memoir Prize) which then goes out of print because the publisher folds, but the book is picked up by a major international publisher and almost immediately WINS the 2019 Stella Prize. WOW. The Erratics (HarperCollins 2018) by Vicki Laveau-Harvie is on a literary dream run an ...more
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Vicki Laveau-Harvie is a former academic and translator. She has always believed in the power of the written word, the necessity of getting your tenses right and not using ‘I’ after a preposition. She lives in Gordon, Sydney, where she is working on a collection of love poetry, and encouraging the beginnings of a novel about betrayal of trust and vineyards. A believer in education and communicatio ...more

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Anne Lamott, the beloved writer of memoirs including Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies, once said, “You own everything that happened to you....
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“My sister’s partner leaves the room at some point and strides down the wide hallway to inspect the elevator my mother takes to the lobby every morning to buy her newspapers and flowers. My sister’s partner is a handy person and wishes to inspect the elevator doors to see if there’s any way to rig them to open onto a void when my mother pushes the button.” 1 likes
“.. because I do not carry a lot of my past. My sister carries it for me, her foot in the bear trap of our childhood unable to extricate herself no matter how hard she pulls.” 1 likes
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