We Were Not Men by Campbell Mattinson

Imagine the heartbreak, the pain, the dislocation. Nine-year-old twins, Jon and Eden Hardacre are orphaned in a terrible car accident in which they are both injured. Jon tells us their story as they grow up with their step-grandma Bobbie, who is still grieving her own loss – the death of their grandfather. The boys compete with each other at swimming, fall in love with the same girl, and negotiate the shoals of life. The newly configured family moves between Bobbie’s farm at Flowerdale and the boy’s suburban home in Newport, Victoria. It is a challenging read, especially at the beginning because we are confined to Jon’s unfiltered nine-year-old view of what happens. Jon’s view gradually expands, and he (and we) appreciate that life is more complex, that relationships are not always straightforward.

I was drawn into this story, imagining a nine-year-old view of such a tragedy, and admiring the resilience of Jon, Eden, and Bobbie as they found a way ahead, through various challenges. If we live, we learn. Nothing stays the same. Life goes on.

Mr Mattinson brings his characters to life, especially Jon and Bobbie, and this is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith