Burning the Vines by Michelle Mazal is a memoir about a family, particularly a little girl, Michelle, (nicknamed Stumps, after a dentist visit and all her teeth were removed) living in Australia, near the airport of Perth back in the '60s and '70s. An alcoholic and physically abusive father didn't help matters either. Hiding from the cattle prod was a must! The fierce determination of Michelle's mum, Leonie, to protect her daughters at any cost, even placing herself in harm's way was very brave indeed. Michelle witnessed her mother suffer a lot of bloody noses and swollen lips at her father's hands more times than she could count. Moving into her Nana's house with the family, after selling their own place, things became cramped. But the saving grace was the fact that there were stables and horses there, and of course her favorite cousin, Kenny, giving her true friendship but, later, unbelievable heartache too. Another house move, to Herne Hill complete with their own stables, gave them more space, but with still the same problems. Life was hard for Stumps, even with the horses she had, which gave her soul something to care about and love. Her dad still raging and abusive, spending money on booze, and the children going hungry was a common occurrence. The sisters hid and did the best they could to help their mum, often futile in their attempts, though. The only respite was Nana and Pops, their favorite place to be. The maternal grandparents were the epitome of kindness and care, and they always looked forward to visiting them. The presents on their bed were the best thing to look forward to, always new clothes, hand sewn by Nana. Burning the Vines by Michelle Mazal is a startling story. The sheer horror of what a child has to put up with, the things that go through their tiny minds as they wrestle with their consciences about their parents, working while ill, being underfed, and abused by their alcoholic father! But no matter what, you still have that false sense of duty or love towards the parent that has been abusive, right to the end! I was swept in from the first page, taken to Perth, Australia. You really feel the heat, anger, sadness and love as the author takes you on this perilous childhood memory trip. Get a tissue before you read this. What wonderful people Nana and Pops were. Burning the Vines by Michelle Mazal is a story brilliantly and provocatively described with a fierce determination of survival. Unputdownable
This bleak appraisal was the response a young Michelle Mazal received when she first tried to tell her story to a relative. She, her three sisters and her mother lived for years under the shadow of her father's drunken violence and random sadism. All these years later, Mazal, a tough and compassionate survivor, is telling her story again; this time someone must listen.
In her powerful and evocative memoir, Mazal pieces together fragments of a life that convey both a child's love for her father and an adult's understanding of domestic violence. Memories of playing with her sisters, getting her teeth pulled out and riding her much-loved horses are undercut by moments of daily, normalised horror. Mazal captures the complexities of her dysfunctional family in an honest, open-hearted and insightful way. She knows, none better, that feelings of love, hate, security and fear nestle more closely together than we would like to acknowledge, and that the people we love can sometimes be the ones who hurt us the most.