The book I couldn’t put down this weekend: Boy by Kate Shand

April 9, 2013


Boy: The Story of My Teenage Son’s Suicide by Kate Shand is one of the most heartbreaking, stirring and unputdownable books I’ve read in a long time.

I’ve been curious to read it ever since my friend Melinda Ferguson, who published it with Jacana, started speaking about the story and the processes, and each time we discussed it, we both had tears in our eyes. I can’t imagine any mother reading this and not being moved by one mother’s pain after her son’s suicide, and the process to try and pick up the fragments after.

While I was expecting a compelling read, I didn’t anticipate such a well written book, and I read it in hours – wanting to find answers and conclusions just as Kate did when questioning her son JP’s suicide.

One of the most powerful extracts goes as follows, about the time just after JP’s suicide:

“We sit in the dark and then in the early-morning light. We smoke. We talk. It is a gentle time. The world is asleep. The night sky and the quiet provide a protective blanket. A buffer between what has happened and the stark light of day still to come. The moon and the stars gently watch over us. They are in their place. The cosmos remains as it always has. Watching over this sad, broken family. Reminding us that the earth will move around the sun and the moon will move around the earth and the stars will come out and twinkle at us. This too is just another moment, a moment that barely registers in the enormity of it all,, in the timeline of eternity.

We are just another family – one of millions of families through time and space – who have experienced tragedy. But through the night and into the pink dawn we are the universe. Nothing else exists, except this movement and our confusion and loss – the full impact of which still awaits us.

And then the sun comes up, and those who are still awake go to sleep as those who have just woken begin to keep watch. I stay on the couch that night and for weeks to follow. I never want to do again anything that I have done before – nothing familiar – and although David and I are kind and respectful and attentive, we are on our own. I can’t reach out to him. I don’t even think of it. It is enough to keep myself together. Grief is lonely. It cannot be shared.”


I can’t stop thinking about this book, about one boy’s battle and his family’s anguish. And how we can never anticipate what will happen, nor keep our children close enough.

Boy is available from leading bookshops like Exclusive Books and Love Books in Melville, and online at Exclusives, Takealot and Kalahari.




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  • SueStuart

    I can’t comprehend what she must have/must still be going through.  What a tragedy.

    April 9, 2013 at 7:04 am Reply
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  • Simon

    This book took me back to a darkness I thought that I had closed the door on. I found myself seared by it’s brutal honesty, the raw emotion of a loss so incomprehensible, that leaves the family and friends forever scarred. My personal tsunami happened a long time ago to my nephew, this book took me straight back there. I wonder if she if did get her post mortem report.
    I shall leave you with the this Khalil Gibran poem…

    Your pain is the breaking of the shell
    that encloses your understanding.

    Even as the stone of the fruit must break,that its
    heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

    And could you keep your heart in wonder
    at the daily miracles of your life, your pain
    would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

    And you would accept the seasons of your
    heart, even as you have always accepted
    the seasons that pass over your fields.

    And you would watch with serenity
    through the winters of your grief.

    Much of your pain is self-chosen.

    It is the bitter potion by which the
    physician within you heals your sick self.

    Therefore trust the physician, and drink
    his remedy in silence and tranquillity:

    For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided
    by the tender hand of the Unseen,
    And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips,
    has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter
    has moistened with His own sacred tears.

    September 13, 2013 at 6:32 am Reply
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