I found this an oddly structured read. As the title indicates, we are to be treated to a one hundred year family saga coming from the harsh cattle country typical of Cameron’s corner. This is unforgiving territory yet my experience of most people who live in such places has been of grounded no-nonsense but kindly people. Morton’s previous two generations seem to have been almost psychopathically vicious or uncaring in their human and business relations with only their wives present to covertly leaven their behaviour – until abandoned in the case of Rick’s mother. There is also tragedy in the mix with the author’s involvement in the extreme accidental burning of his brother Tony while the two were playing in an oil-soaked garage pit.
Add to this Morton’s growing awareness of his difference in so many respects that led him away from what might have been expected of his tradition towards writing and quite a good career in journalism (he is still only in his early 30s) and the realisation that he was gay. That, for me, had the makings of a readable life trajectory but that isn’t quite what I got.
Morton has written for a series of papers commencing with the then real estate adverts heavy ‘Gold Coast Bulletin’ from his Bond University journalism course onward to ‘The Australian’. That is where I felt this book partially derailed itself.
Morton is almost obsessed (perhaps understandably) with trying to bring order and reason to the series of events that led to his experiences and dives into a variety of social science research sources to portray a view that epigenetic influences especially with regard to the lack of nurturing (physical and mental) explain what he and others have experienced and felt. The problem, for me, is that he presents this material, as I might expect, in a magazine story format which, if anything, detracts from its weight.
He also seems to feel that these influences made it even more difficult for him than for others to come out and establish an enduring relationship and, perhaps, his impecuniousness. Frankly, I find this a rather long bow.
The writing is perfectly adequate but the material about his family’s establishment and early years is almost frighteningly absorbing. There is no doubt that the behaviour of his father and grandfather, as reported, was cruel, negligent and utterly self-absorbed. The effect on his mother and her attempts to structure a life for herself and her family were heart-warming and the impact of the downward-spiralling of his injured brother into extreme addiction utterly saddening as Morton explores the extreme reality of a family’s limited resources in dealing with that situation.
The author spends time on overarching considerations that might provide a framework for what he writes about. For me, I detect the odour of Bond University based attitudes and a hefty dose of Murdochian ‘Australian’ views. Money and resources are absolutely everything. These may be acceptable for some, but along with the rather poor structure, I felt it robbed an interesting story of interest and satisfaction.
(BCC library has 40 copies and an audiobook)