Lech Blaine revisits a deeply traumatising event from his youth.
In 2009, Lech Blaine and six of his friends were involved in a horrific car crash in Toowoomba, Queensland. No drink-driving or breaking of speed limits was involved, although the car was clearly overloaded (two were travelling in the boot). The group was still in their teens, just boys. They were travelling at 95 kilometres an hour, five kilometres under the limit. When a back tyre hit some gravel the car spun out of control. People at the accident site later commented that Lech was hysterical, crawling out of the car despite being told to sit still until help arrived. Being young and fit, Lech presumed everyone would pull through. Death never entered his head. But over the coming days the seriousness of the injuries would provide a harsh dose of reality. Three of his friends died. One close friend suffered permanent brain damage, unable to walk or talk.
Car Crash, a memoir of this grief stricken time, describes the author stumbling numb and confused through the aftermath. It covers an hallucinatory, nightmare year and paints an emotionally complicated portrait of a group of young teenagers, ill equipped to deal with sudden, inexplicable death.
Lech Blaine is a preternaturally gifted young writer, still in his twenties. His prose shows an easy sophistication and surreal wit, constantly throwing out pleasant surprises. While the book is ostensibly about a group of young Toowoomba teenagers, describing their culture of sex, sport and alcohol, Blaine also spends much of the memoir concentrating on his relationship with his separated parents. His father is a sports loving, Labor voting union man, while his mother is the sensitive lover of literature, burdened with mental health issues. These sections brilliantly evoke complicated familial relationships, how children are formed by their parents, but also act to counter their influence.
Grief and confusion as experienced by young men, leavened with a smart sense of humour and a true writer's gift for subtle observation.
Car Crash: A Memoir, by Lech Blaine. Published by Black Inc. $29.99
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books