Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s memoir wins the $50,000 Stella Prize

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First-time author Vicki Laveau-Harvie is the winner of 2019 The Stella Prize for her memoir The Erratics.

This is the first time in its seven-year history that a memoir has won the Stella Prize and the second time it’s been awarded to a debut author.

The Erratics from The Stella Prize website:

“When Vicki’s elderly mother is hospitalised unexpectedly, she travels to her parents’ isolated ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help her father. She has been estranged from her parents for many years and is horrified by what she discovers on her arrival.

“Her mother has always been mentally unstable, but for years camouflaged her delusions and unpredictability. Over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world.

“Vicki’s father, who has been systematically starved and kept a prisoner in his own home, begins to realise what has happened to him and embarks upon plans of his own to combat his wife.

“Vicki quickly realises how dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, her mother’s behaviour is. She fears for her father’s life and her own safety if her mother returns home. The power play between her parents takes a dramatic turn and leaves Vicki embroiled in situations that are ludicrous, heart-breaking, and frightening.”

The judges' report:

“A gripping memoir, Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s The Erratics mines the psychological damage wrought on a nuclear family by a monstrous personality, set against the bitter cold of a Canadian winter. Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s narrative voice is detached, slightly numb and darkly humorous. She has long abandoned the lonely, shuttered house on the Alberta prairie for the untrammelled emotional freedom of faraway Australia.

“Laveau-Harvie’s understated dialogue is naturalistic, conveying the deep alienation that can exist in a fractured immediate family. Somehow, despite the dark subject matter, this book has a smile at its core, and Laveau-Harvie shows constant wit when depicting some harrowing times. The narrative is brimming with honesty, the narrator somehow manages to see all viewpoints, and we are rewarded with an evocative and expansive view of a family that has more than its fair share of dysfunction. The writing throughout is of a consistently high standard and the judges were constantly delighted by this surprise of a book.”

Vicki Laveau-Harvie, who is in her seventies also won the 2018 Finch Memoir Prize for The Erratics. 

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