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My Father's Suitcase

A story of family secrets, abuse, betrayal - and breaking free

Mary Garden



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Mary Garden
01 May 2024
A gripping tale of resilience and survival that offers hope to others who have experienced family violence and suffered at the hands of a sibling.

A deeply personal and heartbreaking memoir that explores the troubled relationship between Mary Garden and her younger sister, Anna, who died in 2023 after a short illness. Mary unpacks her life of growing up in New Zealand in the 1950s and '60s, before making Australia home. She reveals complex layers of intergenerational trauma, including the baggage of her eccentric, deeply flawed father and the secret her mother kept from all of them, revealed only after her death. Mary deals movingly with her sister's long battle with mental illness and how she once saved Anna's life.

As she unravels these narratives, Mary touches on the guilt and shame familiar to anyone who has had to deal with secrets, violence and 'madness' in their family. And she shines a light on sibling abuse, the most common form of abuse in the context of family violence - occurring up to five times as frequently as spousal or parental child abuse - although it is often dismissed as 'sibling rivalry'. It causes far-reaching, long-lasting harm.

AUTHOR: Mary Garden was born in New Zealand and has a PhD from the University of the Sunshine Coast. Working as a freelance journalist, her writing has appeared in a range of publications, including Newsroom, New Zealand Geographic, Meanjin, The Weekend Australian, Australian Financial Review and The Humanist (US). Her first book The Serpent Rising (1988, 2003), a memoir of her years entangled with various gurus in India in the 1970s, won the High Country Indie Book Award 2021. Sundowner of the Skies, a biography of her father Oscar Garden, was short-listed for the NSW Premier's History Award 2020. She now lives in Castlemaine, Australia.

Imprint:   Mary Garden
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
ISBN:   9780646890050
ISBN 10:   0646890050
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Unspecified

Reviews for My Father's Suitcase: A story of family secrets, abuse, betrayal - and breaking free

'Mary Garden roars against injustice to give voice to silent sufferers of sibling abuse. While tugging at the threads of her family in an effort to understand her fraught relationship with her sister, she spares no one, least of all herself. It is a raw and unguarded account of a reckoning, a story a lifetime in the making.' MICHELLE TOM, AUTHOR OF TEN THOUSAND AFTERSHOCKS 'A heartfelt rendering of the writer's struggles with an abusive sister, and her ultimate journey towards recovery. Mary does an especially good job of describing family of origin dynamics that set the stage for the troubled relationship with her sister, and she points to a path forward for adult survivors.' JOHN CAFFARO, PH.D. DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR, CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 'Mary Garden offers an unflinching account of her experience of sibling abuse, a largely invisible form of domestic violence. With searing honesty, Garden combines memoir and deep research to explore the complex nature of sibling relationships, and the uniquely profound impact of abuse, when inflicted by one sibling onto another.' NICOLE MADIGAN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR OF OBSESSED 'From its electrifying opening to its deeply compassionate conclusion, any sibling who's ever had to play happy families will find solace in Garden's visceral battle cry against victim blaming. Writers everywhere will treasure this benchmark book for courageously demanding truth in the face of bothsidesism.' MICHAEL BURGE, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR OF TANK WATER 'An astonishing life story, containing at its heart a frank, raw and courageous revelation of the reality and long-term effect of violence visited by one sister upon another. Ultimately, almost miraculously, there develops a mood of heroic compassion.' CARMEL BIRD 'A fascinating and sometimes shocking story of family trauma and conflict. Writing with insight, restraint and compassion, Mary Garden shines a clear, unflinching light on her own family, and herself.' MAURICE GEE

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