My father the murderer: a reckoning with the past by Nina Young and Denise Young

 ‘Was it even possible to truly know who you are if you didn’t understand where you came from?’

This is Nina Young’s story, of an uncomfortable search for the truth about her estranged father, Allan Ladd. This is also Denise Young’s story, about how she became involved with Allan Ladd, why she left him and the challenges afterwards.

This book arose out of a six-part podcast series in which Nina told her story. But as Nina writes, the podcast did not answer everything. The book came about, in Nina’s words ‘… as a way for us [Nina and Denise] to bond as we searched for the last pieces of the emotional puzzle that is our lives.’

The chapters of the book alternate between Nina and Denise. Nina writes of her shock at discovering that her father had strangled a woman to death, Denise writes of how she fell in love with Allan while working as a tutor at the gaol in which he was imprisoned. Denise fled from Allan when Nina was very young and worked hard to establish a new life. But Allan cast a long shadow over their lives: another murder, a half-brother who needed a home. Nina’s search for truth was uncomfortable and confronting, Denise found the process difficult and liberating. The two of them became closer as a consequence.

This is a well-written and moving account of what must have been a very difficult journey for both women. Denise may have been reluctant to revisit the past, but she found the courage to do so. And Nina? What a complicated story she had to unpack. Learning that your father was a murderer would be challenging enough, but to search through the past for the truth, to find the details must have been overwhelming.

A courageous journey by both women, through a past full of psychological minefields, hopefully to a more comfortable future.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith



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