67 Days to a Family’s Self-Destruction
Big Sky Publishing, Australia , 2021
Shattered is a raw, honest account of the coming together of three tragedies in Travis Winks’ family life – events which are interconnected and which resulted in the shooting death of one family member, the attempted suicide of another and the imprisonment of a third.
Told with a sharp sense of immediacy, this history is broken into the separate stories of his sister Amy, his brother Trent and his father Russell.
The account explores the effects of long-term domestic abuse including coercive control, of depression, of the demands our society places on men to be strong and silent, and of the explosive potential of emotional stress. The author includes many direct conversations which forcefully convey the drama of this time, sometimes through their emotional tone and sometimes through a certain banality which so aptly speaks of real life.
Letters from Amy whilst in prison and experiences of the family as they attempt to support her highlight the deficits of the prison and justice system in Queensland and the law generally in relation to domestic abuse. Trent’s separation from everyone and everything he holds dear, his children and his work, lead to isolation and his descent into severe depression.
Russell, a caring and hard-working father, is determined to help his children in their times of need. He sets about this task with energy and positivity but is ground down by systemic barriers and becomes deeply and irrevocably frustrated and angry.
While the individual events and their convergence in Travis’s family are unique, they are also highly relatable for the reader in some measure. Most families go through times of crisis, dysfunction and despair and thus Shattered becomes a story for all of us.
The author has a didactic purpose beyond simply sharing his own experiences. He clearly wants us to mind our own communications with family and friends, to hold our loved ones dear and close, and to make sure that we ourselves are alert to the warning signs in such situations – perhaps therefore enabling better outcomes than he writes about here.
Travis Winks works in radio and, with his journalist background, demonstrates his well-honed skill in succinctly making his points and telling his story. He portrays his characters with sharp clarity for the reader – yes, they are real and they feel that way.
While there is a heavy load of grief in this book, there is also hope. The loyalty and love for family shown both by the author and other members of the family serve to remind us of what is important. This is a book from which we can all learn – a tough but worthy read.
Thank you to Big Sky Publishing for the review copy and to Travis for such a forthright conversation.