The Story of Tom Brennan, by JC Burke

Reviewed by Delwyne Stephens

This book for 13+ teens is so real it hurts. Week after week the news screams of stories about road trauma and the very many hapless, often speeding and drunk young male drivers. The Story of Tom Brennanis about the fall-out victims of such car accidents. The brother (Tom), the sister, the uncle, the mum and dad and the grandmother who in this story takes them all in. The criminal – the reckless and risk taking son, best mate and footy partner Daniel – goes to jail.

This book made me uncomfortable and it made me cry. It was almost too real for me – the deeply depressed mother particularly angered me and I wanted to shake her out of her malaise. I didn’t feel at ease until Tom began to get constructive about his grief and inch by inch he moved away from his pain and began to gain a renewed sense of self. There is no winner in a story that tackles the death of close friends and the quadriplegia of a cousin. But Burke handles the subject matter with sensitivity. Her background as a nurse is evident in the book. She has seen suffering and she has seen moving on and this is one of strengths of this story. I can’t say I enjoyed The Story of Tom Brennan, but it is compelling reading.

The Story of Tom Brennan, by JC Burke
Random House, 2006

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