Review Blog

May 07 2019

Things nobody knows but me by Amra Pajalic

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Transit Lounge, 2019. ISBN: 9781925760200.
(Age: Adult) Memoir. Pajalic writes that as a young person she had judged her mother and found her wanting, as a mother, as a wife, as a human being. It was only when she was 16 that a school counsellor helped her realise that her mother was most likely suffering from manic depression, that there was a chemical imbalance in her brain that caused her moods and behaviour to change in ways she could not control. This was a revelation that changed Pajalic's perspective of her mother, and led her to better understanding and forgiveness.
Things nobody knows but me is a record of Pajalic's chaotic childhood, the highs and lows of a life where parental guidance was lacking, and where one unpredictable thing could happen after another. The child Amra and her younger brother had to largely fend for themselves, and try to work out the mysteries of the adult world around them, often in situations that veered on dangerous.
When they travel to Bosnia, and stay with her mother's parents, there is at least the security of rules and boundaries, but it comes with harsh physical punishments for any wrongdoing. Amra comes to realise that her mother and in fact all the women in her family have had a very restricted life, where men have a free hand, and women have to fearfully guard their moral reputations.
With the realisation of the things her mother had to bear, Pajalic has a better appreciation of the opportunities now available to her, and the freedoms that she in turn can offer her own daughter.
For the reader, it provides an intimate insight into mental health issues, parenting styles and abuse, and women's rights.
Helen Eddy

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