Bodies of Light
Author: Jennifer Down
Publisher: Text Publishing
Reviewer: Brian Morgan
Some people never have a chance in life. They are born into a dysfunctional family; for one or other of many reasons, they end up in foster homes; they become addicted to alcohol and/or drugs at a young age; they drop out of school; and, by early adulthood, they have probably lost any chance of having a successful life.
Bodies of Light, a challenging book, is a story of just such a girl. She was clearly intelligent; was able to complete her schooling; she gained entry to University; but it didn’t take long for her past and her addictions to catch up with her.
Imagine losing three children in succession to what, today, we would call Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And then to be charged with their murders in circumstances where there would seem to have been no evidence of a crime but, rather, an inordinate focus on the coincidence that the three babies died, two of them when her husband was also home and the third when she was alone.
I found this one of the most confronting stories that I have read in a long, long time. I could not help but think of the many children for whom I had acted for (and against some, as well) and how most of them were never able to escape their past.
The author has received a great deal of praise for her writing, praise with which I agree. She has written a tear jerker but one which has the additional dimension for lawyers of causing us to feel frustrated, helpless, angry and perplexed all at the same time.
As far as I know, this is a work of fiction but it is so close to examples that I have seen that my reaction to it was to assume that it told the story of a particular person. Perhaps, it is part of the gift of the writer to induce us to believe that their imaginings amount to a factual account of an unknown person.
Two days ago I was at a luncheon at Point Cartwright near Mooloolaba and met a young family for the second time. They have a non verbal daughter of about 8 years old (my estimate) who needs full time care, which she receives. I had almost completed reading this book and could not help but think that this young one also has little chance in life for quite different reasons.
Be warned. This book will challenge you and, if you work in the field of children, it will, I suspect, cause you to think more carefully about some of your clients and how life has dealt them such a cruel hand.
One reviewer has described this as “a novel with immense dignity and heart”. I wish I had thought of those words as they sum it up in a nutshell.
22 March 2022