This book is both an autobiography, in which Gary describes a very eventful life, and an exploration into meaning. After a deprived childhood in a poor part of Melbourne Gary enjoyed some larrikin teenage adventures before his strong ambition to succeed through study and sport led him into a more conventional ways. He describes his early working life as a struggle to maintain a difficult marriage whilst developing a successful business career. A series of tragic events involving his wider family provided a continuously stressful background to Gary’s battle to reconcile the career of a senior accountant and family responsibilities with his concerns about an ethical way of living. The reader is confronted by a series of violent events in Gary’s life and cannot help asking him or herself how they would deal with their brother being murdered, their mum suiciding and their sister self-mutilating and dying a slow, painful death.
This background of difficulty and tragedy prompted an ongoing, deep enquiry into the fundamental questions such as ‘what am I’ and ‘what is all this about’. He explains his realisation that his life story, a tale he lays before the reader with extraordinary frankness, formed the identity which he completely accepted as the entity, Gary, solid and ‘real as a rock’. The awakening to a realization that his ‘self’ was not an entity but a process, largely due I imagine, to the pressures of his unusually stressful existence, came as a life-changing shift. It is the honesty and openness with which he recounts his successes, failures, insights and mistakes that makes this such an interesting and compelling record. The reconciliation of what he describes as his discovery of the bliss of being nothing, psychological weightlessness he calls it, with the demands of everyday pressures is combined with a determination to work it out for himself. That is what makes this such an authentic story and a touchstone for our own experiencing. This is a story that is told with a surviving Aussie sense of humor that keeps the reader rooting for his happy ending. That happy ending, however, is not at all what we, the reader, have come to expect from an “against all odds” memoir.