#20BacklistIn2020 · #aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · contemporary fiction

#20BACKLISTIN2020 Backlist Book Challenge: Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder

2020 backlist challenge graphic

In a desperate bid to reduce the books that are collecting dust on my TBR shelves, I have decided to collaborate with another avid reader and fellow book reviewer, Nicole from Certified Book Addicts. The #20BACKLISTIN2020 challenge is a self paced challenge hosted by Jaylamm.ReadsReading and Sunshine, and Cassidys.Bookshelf. The overall goal of this challenge is to read 20 titles from the backlist books that are currently sitting on your TBR pile. For this challenge I will be reading non review books and taking my selections directly from my chock-a-block TBR bookcases (there are two shelved back to back). I will be publishing my reviews of these books on my blog and social media sites on the first and third Tuesday of the month.


Book #12 in the #20BACKLISTIN2020 challenge

Estimated TBR Shelf Life: 2.5 years


You can never go back – but can you forgive? A gripping story of love and sixty seconds smallredemption.

The Brennans – parents, Finn and Bridget, and their sons, Jarrah and Toby – have made a sea change, from chilly Hobart to subtropical Murwillumbah. Feeling like foreigners in this land of sun and surf, they’re still adjusting to work, school, and life in a sprawling purple weatherboard, when one morning, tragedy strikes.

In the devastating aftermath, the questions fly. What really happened? And who’s to blame?

Determined to protect his family, Finn finds himself under the police and media spotlight. Guilty and enraged, Bridget spends nights hunting answers in the last place imaginable. Jarrah – his innocence lost – faces a sudden and frightening adulthood where nothing is certain.

Sixty Seconds is a haunting, redemptive story about forgiveness and hope, inspired by the author’s own family experience.

Review:

An unspeakable family tragedy is at the heart of Jesse Blackadder’s powerful novel Sixty Seconds. A deep study of grief, loss, blame, acceptance and forgiveness marks this domestic fiction novel from a perceptive Australian novelist. Despite the sense of dread that washed over me in regards to the main subject matter of this novel, I was completely absorbed in Sixty Seconds.

When Sixty Seconds opens, we learn that the focus family of this novel have recently moved from Tasmania to NSW.  While dealing with the temperature and location differences between the two states, little do they know that a big tragedy is about to strike. With parents Finn and Bridget Brennan distracted by their new work arrangements and their older son Jarrah starting a new school, this family is torn apart when a terrible accident occurs on their doorstep. The fallout from this shocking accident has everyone reeling. Blame is cast and questions continue to swirl around the root cause of the incident. Further hardship occurs when the father of this family is arrested by the police in connection to the family tragedy. With the media encroaching on the family’s grief, everyone is dealing with their own individual struggles. It is a make or break situation for the Brennan clan. Can they learn to embrace life again and move away from their devastating pain?

Sixty Seconds is the fourth adult fiction release from Jesse Blackadder and the first book I have read by this author. Published in 2017 by HarperCollins Australia, sadly this novel has been collecting dust on my shelves for over two years now. The recent loss of the author of Sixty Seconds, moved me and it also served as a gentle reminder to explore this writer’s much praised work. Although Sixty Seconds deals with  quite sensitive subject matter, there was something very compelling about this book that ensured I was unable to pull myself away from the unfolding tale.

Sixty Seconds presents a very common and tragic incident that occurs on a frequent basis here in Australia. Blackadder has tapped into a relevant and timely topic. Blackadder’s treatment of this incident is tender and receptive. I think Blackadder approached the main narrative incident with respect and full understanding. Reading through the accompanying Author’s Note at the end of this novel provided an extra layer to this tale and it made me see just how close the subject matter was to Blackadder’s heart. The pivotal loss of her sister at a young age haunted Blackadder for many years and after one attempt to write an autobiography on this tragic accident, finally Blackadder was able to put pen to paper on her sister’s fortieth birthday. Blackadder knew this was the right time to begin her journey in crafting Sixty Seconds. The result is an informed, perceptive and incredibly moving set piece that is marked with a strong dose of realism.

I really liked the focus on the location shift from cold and crisp Tasmania to sultry NSW in Sixty Seconds. The Brennan family are only just beginning to settle into a completely different way of life when they are upended in absolutely devastating circumstances. Blackadder’s descriptions of both Australian locales is contrasted well, but also incredibly situational. From the weather, to the scenery, each aspect of the location shift in this novel is carefully presented. I admired the environmental references thanks to the mother figure of this tale, Bridget’s career. I also appreciated how Blackadder was able to insert Bridget’s world view into her journey from immense grief, to acceptance.

I was surprised that the actual tragic incident, which I am avoiding directly referencing due to spoilers, didn’t hit me as a hard as I expected. It was incredibly upsetting, especially as a mother, but I think the focus was on the aftermath of this incident, rather than the nitty gritty details of the accident. Although the focus was taken away somewhat from the incident, Blackadder chooses to zone in on the pathway to accepting loss, confronting grief, dealing with emotional pain, the fight for justice and the steps taken by the family to eventually move on with their lives. It will break your heart and move you to tears, but there are also moments of hope, which I fully embraced.

Subtly intertwined in this study on family love and loss is a coming of age story that is attached to one of the three shifting core narrators of this novel. Jarrah is the older son of this tale and his story enables to reader to delve into the mind of a boy on the cusp of adulthood, who is not only dealing with a new home environment, but one marked by extreme loss. Combined with the usual teenage confusions and some questions of sexuality, Jarrah’s story is in some respects just as powerful as the overall story arc. Blackadder offsets the central storyline with a focus on the different careers of the two other narrators of this tale, Finn and Bridget Brennan. Blackadder also examines issues of infidelity, betrayal, ageing and dementia, with a perceptive lens.

Sixty Seconds will undoubtedly pull at your heartstrings many times over, but it is worthy of your emotional energy and reading time.

**** 4.5 stars

Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder was published on 18th September 2017 by Harper Colllins-AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here. 

To learn more about the author of Sixty Seconds, Jesse Blackadder, visit here.

Sixty Seconds is book #67 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

7 thoughts on “#20BACKLISTIN2020 Backlist Book Challenge: Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder

  1. I read this as a new release and it has stuck with me. My daughter was a similar age at the time and I think it’s such a easy thing to imagine happening especially in Australian summer. I thought it was such a good book

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too Marg, such a sad loss. I’m sure it would have been a blessing to hear Jesse speak at the Writer’s Festival. A huge loss to the literary world too. A brilliant and powerful writer.

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  2. I really enjoyed this book too. She portrayed the falling apart of the family so well. It was a hard book to read emotionally. It was sad to hear of her recent passing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pleased this one struck a chord with you too Veronica, it sure was a moving and powerful read. Very emotional and hard hitting too. Such a sad loss to the Australian writing community.

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  3. Sounds like this was an exciting Backlist challenge book to read and I bet you’re mighty pleased you picked it as your backlist book? Also sounds like I need to shift this to the top of my TBR list. Oh no, so sad to read in the comments section that she has passed away and so young too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it was, I didn’t have this one planned, but the recent sad loss of the author prompted me to read it. So Sad and she was young too. A brilliant writer. I’m sure you will appreciate this one it is so well written.

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