My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An unflinching, honest, and at times heart-breaking look into the life of a man who overcame more obstacles in his first 5 years of life than many of us would ever expect to conquer. Despite being born with enormous physical disabilities, Robert Hoge transcends them to reveal himself as a warm, benevolent, and most importantly, normal Australian man, with a deep fund of humour and humanity, and a quintessentially laconic take on life inherited from his father Vince, whose presence looms large over this autobiography. It’s Hoge’s humour and positivity that sustain him through a series of hurdles.
After the heartbreaking opening chapters, where his family, particularly his mother Mary, struggle to come to terms with Robert’s disabilities and outward appearance, the narrative quickly settles into a pattern of observation/recognition/acceptance, as a very familiar childhood (especially to any of us who grew up in the 80s) is transfigured by Hoge’s openness and precocious warmth, and is reflected back at him from a community that quickly learns to appreciate and assist him.
While not immune from darker moments and passages of bleak reflection, it is this warmth and humanity that, ultimately, give the book its overall tone. It reminded me very much of Albert Facey’s ‘A Fortunate Life’ in its depiction of extraordinary circumstances made ordinary through an unflinching determination to refute the possibility of failure.