There are some experiences in life that seem far too terrible to comprehend – until they actually happen to us.
Chloe Higgins, the debut author of The Girls, discovered this firsthand when a car accident took the lives of her two younger sisters in 2005. Thrust into a world of pain that she didn’t immediately know how to deal with, Chloe turned to the only thing that she knew would give her any comfort: writing.
For many people, writing a book about the emotional ordeal of losing family members and then publishing it seems impossible, but writing had always been the means by which Chloe made sense of her life. It was as natural to her as breathing.
“I was always writing about it. Almost as soon as it happened, I was writing about it. Writing is the way that I process everything – I couldn’t not write about it,” she says.
In between lecturing in creative writing, completing a PhD, and directing the Wollongong Writers Festival, Chloe produced her memoir The Girls. It’s a heartfelt and astute exploration of the aftermath of grief, how it affected not only her own life and mental wellbeing but that of her parents. It brings up complex questions about life and death, but also grief, love and sex, and the myriad ways in which they complicate the dynamics of our relationships with others. Fans of contemplative narrative non-fiction like Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s The Erratics or Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women will find much to love in this book.
It is Chloe’s avid compulsion to write about her grief that seems so compelling, perhaps because it seems at odds with our collective social reluctance to verbally acknowledge grief. Strangely enough, it was a reluctance that Chloe initially also felt herself, despite being so open to writing privately about it.
“My strategy for so long in my life outside of writing was avoidance, ” says Chloe. “Don’t think about the hard things, don’t express my emotions, don’t cry, don’t tell people how much you love them. That was my everyday world. On the page it’s just the opposite of that, for whatever reason. The hard things and the questions in my stomach – that’s just the stuff that I want to write about.”
These days, it’s the kind of conversation that Chloe finds herself able to have off the page, thanks to the cathartic experience of writing The Girls.
“This book is my liver on the page.”
Chloe visited Booktopia for a book signing and then sat down for a podcast with Joel Naoum and myself – listen below and grab yourself a signed copy of The Girls!
In 2005, Chloe Higgins was seventeen years old. She and her mother, Rhonda, stayed home so that she could revise for her exams while her two younger sisters Carlie and Lisa went skiing with their father. On the way back from their trip, their car veered off the highway, flipped on its side and burst into flames. Both her sisters were killed. Their father walked away from the accident with only minor injuries.
This book is about what happened next...
About the Contributor
Olivia Fricot is the Editor of the Booktopian Blog. After finishing a soul-crushing law degree, she decided that life was much better with one's nose in a book and quickly defected to the world of Austen and Woolf. You can usually find her reading (obviously), baking, writing questionable tweets, and completing a Master's degree in English literature. Just don't ask about her thesis. Olivia is on Twitter and Instagram @livfricot - follow at your own risk.
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