‘Everyone I knew was struggling against something huge and hidden. We are all haunted by past mistakes and heartbreaks, and trapped within the invisible prisons of our brain chemistry and DNA.’ – Lech Blaine
‘Car Crash’ is a memoir by born story-teller, Lech Blaine. To his parents he was a blessing and surprise as Lech (named after Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader Lech Wałęsa) was conceived late in life. They had already fostered many children by the time he came along and so little Lech had plenty of people to look up to, but none who really fit the bill of who he yearned to become.
He was a godless catholic schoolboy, he probably could have won a scholarship to the local Grammar school but his Dad wouldn’t have him mix with future shock-jocks or liberal politicians. Lech does his best posturing to fit in with ‘the boys’ by flogging himself in rugby and drinking dregs out of a shoe (as his Dad had advised, it’s like gaol, pick the biggest kid and make him your friend.) Lech has a sense of imposter syndrome but figures a reset will happen once he reaches his university days.
Then, one night, he and six mates piled into a car in Toowoomba, five in the car and two in the boot. The driver lost control with a routine error and the teenagers were sent into a head-on collision; deaths, acute care, disability, addiction and depression would follow for the group. As a survivor, who came out ‘unscathed’ or so it looked at face value, Lech was plagued by guilt and grief and would numb the pain with alcohol and not address his feelings for many years which compounded his grief.
Post-traumatic stress, depression, relationships with family and the first sexual encounters of young adult life are explored against the contemporary Australian landscape in which Lech is also ‘just’ trying to find a way to be himself, not a larrikin, artsy type or any other limiting definition that is sometimes the feeble facade of a young man coming of age.
It is a brave book that holds no punches, for himself or his family. Alcoholism and bottling up emotions, common and you could say quintessentially Australian coping mechanisms, are explored with such honesty you are rooting for them all to do better and feel better.
This is an exceptional book which poetically and viscerally expresses the pain and joy of existing. As it’s about finding the truth of who you are I think anyone could relate to its content. However, particularly this is an excellent read for young adults or even teenagers because it addresses the pain of pretending to be OK or pretending to be someone else and the rewards of forming genuine connections as you become more honest with yourself.