Patti Miller, in conversation with Caroline Baum, said that in order to get memoir published nowadays, 'You have to have a sensational story or you have to be an exceptionally good writer' and she cited the likes of Kristina Olsson's Boy, Lost and Biff Ward's In My Mother's Hands as 'recent fine examples'.
In My Mother’s Hands (published by Allen & Unwin) by Biff Ward - is a beautifully written and emotionally perplexing coming-of-age true story about growing up in an unusual family.
It has been:
* Short-listed for the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards for Non-fiction 2016
*Short-listed for the NSW Premier's Douglas Stewart Award for Non- fiction for 2015
* Long-listed for The Stella Prize for 2015
* Winner, Canberra Critics' Circle Award for 2014
There are secrets in this family. Before Biff and her younger brother, Mark, there was baby Alison, who drowned in her bath because, it was said, her mother was distracted. Biff too, lives in fear of her mother's irrational behaviour and paranoia, and she is always on guard and fears for the safety of her brother. As Biff grows into teenage-hood, there develops a conspiratorial bond between her and her father, who is a famous and gregarious man, about managing his wife's condition. This was a time when the insane were often locked up in Dickensian institutions and left there; whatever his problems, her father was desperate to save his wife from that fate. He also struggled to protect his children from the effects of living with a tragically disturbed mother. In late middle age, Biff and her brother start to look back and deal with the demons they have been carrying.
They find the grave; they sit there in the wintry Sydney sunshine and unfold faded memories; the ponder what-mgiht-have-beens; they begin to bring their childhood mystery to life. Biff writes this book and then her daughter, in constructing a family tree for a big get-together, includes Alison who has been invisible for seventy years. Somehow she has come back into the land of the living.