My Friend Fox (Heidi Everett, Ultimo Press)
This memoir from mental health recovery advocate Heidi Everett is a thoroughly real and stunningly evocative retelling of her life as a person with diagnosed mental illness. Everett tells the story of her journey with great honesty and openness, which make both the humour and the tragedy of her experiences all the more affecting. There is much here for readers to identify with, both those whose mental health stories are similar to hers and those who do not have direct experience of such things. Running as a counterpoint to Everett’s life story is the story of a suburban fox, constantly on the run from those who would destroy it simply because of its innate qualities. Aware that it is an unwelcome alien in the Australian landscape, Fox must nevertheless find a way to negotiate the threats arraigned against it. Both Fox and Everett must answer the questions: what does the world require of them? Can they meet those requirements? Do they even have to? Everett’s words are accompanied by her own stark and moving illustrations, which add a raw and compelling depth to her story. These pictures fluctuate between childlike style and confident line, helping to underscore the emotional tenor of her tale. My Friend Fox is a powerful book that will appeal to readers interested in stories about the experience of mental health in Australia, particularly books with a highly artistic flavour such as Fiona Wright’s Small Acts of Disappearance or David Stavanger’s Case Notes.
Adam Ford is an editor and a published poet.