In today’s guest post, author Brooke Davis shares the personal tragedy that led to the creation of her debut novel Lost & Found, and discusses why she wanted to explore what it means to grieve. The international bestseller has been compared to The Rosie Project and has been called “heartbreaking, funny and brilliant”. If you’ve got a book club, I’m thinking this one needs to be on your must-read list for 2016. — Dana
Travelling around south-east Asia as a twenty-something in 2007, I received an email from my brother. ‘Urgent’ said the subject line. ‘Ring home as soon as you can,’ it read. ‘Reverse charges if you need to.’
I was on my way to Turkey to meet some friends. At the Ho Chi Minh airport I found a pay phone, and sat in the booth as crowds of people milled around me. Children screamed, adults rushed, announcements were made over the loudspeakers. It was chaotic, loud, normal. I rang my brother. It went through to voicemail. I rang my mum. Voicemail. I rang my other brother. Voicemail. I rang my dad, and he answered.
‘Hi Dad,’ I said.
He didn’t say ‘hi’ back. Just said, ‘Now you’re going to get some very bad news here, so you have to prepare yourself.’ I could tell he’d rehearsed the line.
I don’t remember how he said it, or what I said in return, but somehow he told me that my mum had died in a freak accident. My brothers both got on the phone in turn and we just cried together. ‘Come home,’ my older brother said.
How do you live knowing that anyone you love can die at any moment?
After Mum died, this was a concept I thought long and hard about. We all know this possibility on an intellectual level but only a few of us know this through experience. What is the right way of living with this knowledge? Do we face it head on? Or do we choose blissful denial?
A few months after Mum died, I returned overseas. I wandered around Eastern Europe, trying to find the answer down cobblestoned streets and on rickety trains. My travelling partner was one of my best friends, and his dad was slowly dying of cancer back home in Australia. On overnight ferry rides and long bush walks, we talked openly and honestly about grief, about death, about the many different shapes and forms these concepts take.
Two voices appeared in my notes. A little girl — a ball of energy, hopeful — obsessed with death. An elderly woman — grumpy, lost — who didn’t want to know about death. I wanted to explore what it meant to grieve, not as a process that begins and ends and is only about sadness, but as a part of life. As something that we have to work out how to live with, in among everything else there is — the good, the bad, the indifferent.
Through that process, Lost & Found was born. How do you live knowing that someone you love can die at any moment? At the end of writing Lost & Found, the only answer I’ve discovered is that we have to find that out for ourselves.
— Brooke Davis