As a journalist, Leigh Sales often encounters people experiencing the worst moments of their lives in the full glare of the media. But one particular string of bad news stories – and a terrifying brush with her own mortality – sent her looking for answers about how vulnerable each of us is to a life-changing event. What are our chances of actually experiencing one? What do we fear most and why? And when the worst does happen, what comes next?
In this wise and layered book, Leigh talks intimately with people who’ve faced the unimaginable, from terrorism to natural disaster to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Expecting broken lives, she instead finds strength, hope, even humour. Leigh brilliantly condenses the cutting-edge research on the way the human brain processes fear and grief, and poses the questions we too often ignore out of awkwardness. Along the way, she offers an unguarded account of her own challenges and what she’s learned about coping with life’s unexpected blows.
Warm, candid and empathetic, this book is about what happens when ordinary people, on ordinary days, are forced to suddenly find the resilience most of us don’t know we have.
In contrast to everyone else I follow on Goodreads, I didn't love this. Sales interviews a handful of people who have suffered high profile tragedies about how they coped with the trauma, loss and attention they went through. The interviews are honest and interesting and provide a powerful look at recovery, resilience and grief. The book weaves Sales' own trials and scientific research around these interviews and here, especially the science bits, I was bit underwhelmed. It's a thoughtful and moving book, but it didn't really sweep me along with it the way I was hoping it would.
In writing Any Ordinary Day, author, journalist and former correspondent Leigh Sales has presented something very far from ordinary. The author is widely known in Australia for her sharp journalistic skills in front and behind the camera for the ABC program the 7.30 Report, and for her self-deprecating and witty notes on life in the podcast 'chat10looks3' alongside Annabel Crabb. Here is a link to that if you would like to have a look: https://www.chat10looks3.com/
This meticulously researched and thoroughly interesting book came to fruition when the author herself suffered a serious child birth complication which made her question her own mortality. She describes her brush with death with brutal honesty, and it made me realise how benign my life experiences thus far have been.
The author lays out the experiences of everyday Australians from their perspectives of life altering experiences they face in the range of extreme emotions specifically relating to trauma, grief and recovery. What I found absolutely fascinating were her interviews with the people behind the scenes who I would not have previously considered before. The state Coroner, a retired detective, and a thoroughly wonderful woman named Wendy Liu, a Forensic Counsellor of the NSW Department of Forensic Medicine.
These humble people all provide such a valuable service to society at a time when everyday citizens need them the most. I was particularly interested to read about Wendy who dealt with grieving families at the morgue. She prepares them for what they should expect, down to the smell, how their loved one is presented, if there are any injuries or anything they may not be ready for. She told of a story about a toddler, the grandparents were seeing their grandson for the last time and the Grandpa had a toy he wanted to place in the boy’s hand. It is Wendy’s job to make her clients comfortable so she encouraged the man in doing this final act for his Grandson, and in doing so it fell out of the hand. She made a little joke and put the grieving family at ease. Her empathy and warmth during the interview was evident and it is people like these that give comfort to those suffering that really made an impression on me. Jobs that I would never consider that are so very important. As stated in the book her ‘useful and purposeful work.’
Leigh interviews survivors from tragedies such as the Port Arthur massacre, a Lindt Café siege survivor who suffers with MS, the Thredbo land slide, a medical student that survived 43 days in The Himalayas, a mother who lost her husband to murder then to lose her son, amongst many more. These interviews are shown to us with a certain kind of honesty that to me, never seem to push into unsafe territory, the interviewee is always willing to answer her questions and we are left feeling in safe hands. Leigh also talks about her profession, do journalists ever cross the line? She again answers this with brutal honesty and recounts incidents where, yes, in fact she did.
I loved this book and praise the author for her research, empathy and compassion. Such an interesting and unique book, I have never read anything similar to this and doubt I ever will again. Written ever so well I highly recommended this quality Australian literature. I thoroughly enjoyed my audio version, narrated by the author. A very worthy five star read!
4.5★ “The random distribution of misfortune is perhaps the only thing in life that is fair.”
I read a comment years ago that said it was reassuring to think that the odds of a nuclear holocaust were only once in million years . . . until it occurs to you that that includes tomorrow.
The author asks: “When the unthinkable does happen, what comes next? How does a person go on? . . . The novelist Iris Murdoch once wrote that paying attention is a moral act. To me, paying close attention to these kinds of tragedies felt like staring at the sun. It scared me to do it, yet I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t look away.”
Aussie author Leigh Sales is an award-winning, highly respected journalist and interviewer. She hosts 7:30, arguably Australia’s leading evening news program, where she pulls no punches when questioning reluctant politicians and business leaders.
She is also a funny, quick-witted, delightful woman who, with equally bright, popular Aussie journalist Annabel Crabb, hosts a podcast and Facebook ‘forum’ called “Chat 10 Looks 3”, which has over 34 thousand members. https://www.facebook.com/groups/chat1...
Photo of Annabel Crabb (L) and Leigh Sales (R) in Adelaide
So, we know her – or we Chatters like to think we do. Early in this book, she reveals her own life-and-death terror when she was in the late stages of pregnancy with her second child. It was hair-raising reading, as was a particularly horrifying dream she had. So she decided to “stare into the sun” and talk to people. She refers to people by their first names, so I will as well.
Leigh asked experienced journalist Amanda Gearing how she approached “death knock duty”. Amanda had been asked to report on the catastrophic Queensland flood in 2011, often referred to as an inland tsunami. How do you ask people to speak about the unspeakable? About family and friends who were killed, homes obliterated? This is her approach.
“I could give them information about the process they were entering. I could give them information about what the police were already saying and ask them, ‘Is there anything you would like to say?’ I would say, ‘There is going to be a story in the paper about this. If there is anything you would like to say about your child or husband or wife, the paper is interested now. Next week, they probably won’t be so interested.’ More often than not, they did. Ninety per cent of them did.”
Leigh spoke to people who’d lost family in tragic accidents, as a result of sudden unexplained illness, or in massacres, but who were willing to share their personal insights into how they coped. Stuart Diver would be one of the best-known to Aussies. He was the only person recovered alive from the 1997 Thredbo landslide which killed his wife and 17 others. Since then, his second wife has died of breast cancer, but Stuart readily shared his thoughts about his attitude and life today with his little girl.
Leigh also spoke to Wendy, an amazing woman who was a palliative care nurse and who now works at the morgue, guiding people through the process of viewing the body of someone they love.
“Wendy describes her current role as the ‘interface’ between the families and the forensics. . . . ‘I want to be part of a conversation with people, if they wish, around dying and death, and for that to be okay to talk about.’”
Wendy accompanies people and says she has learned that kindness in the day-to-day is the most important thing. People don’t talk about big things, so they are thrown for a loop when they happen. If there is a history of kindness, it helps.
Coroner Mary Jerram retired in 2013 and seems to have been a remarkable help to all involved in cases that came to her court. Kind, compassionate and thorough. These are the people we never expect to meet, and when we do, it is in the most difficult of circumstances.
These people are amazing. Police and detectives may be the first to confront the family with bad news. By the time Wendy meets them, they are still in shock, and by the time the coroner meets them, if she does, it may be a long time down the track, but the family is still fragile.
A few things stood out. Michael Spence, who lost his wife suddenly said: “My eldest son says the difference for him was getting onto escalators. He said he would think about all the people he passed going the other way: What particular moment of grief or tragedy or disappointment are you dealing with at the moment?”
Louisa Hope has MS and was a hostage in Sydney’s Lindt Café siege. [What are the odds, you ask? Leigh will tell you.]
“But the thing was, I really didn’t want to go down some rabbit hole of self-pity and resentment and just general insanity. I wanted to avoid that so much, and so at first, I had this thing where I would only allow myself one hour every day to think about the MS and my divorce and all the other random things you dwell on when your life has just disintegrated. At first, I couldn’t wait for that hour so I could just cry and rage and freak out in the privacy of my own head. But over time, as I prayed and meditated and the days rolled into months, I couldn’t wait for the hour to be over, and then it got shorter and shorter and then I didn’t do it anymore.”
These are just a handful of examples and a tiny bit of the advice offered. I think many of the people Sales spoke to would agree with Patti Smith’s father’s advice.
“American singer Patti Smith lost her husband suddenly. In 2016 she wrote in The New Yorker that her father had told her soon afterwards that time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does give the tools to endure them.”
People endure. Many use meditation, prayer, therapy, and boxing-up the memories. For those of us lucky enough not to have faced these tragedies (yet), the advice to us is to accompany. Go with people. Have empathy and don’t worry that you don’t know what to say. Who does? Don’t turn and run away, as one man saw a friend do. (The friend had run away in tears.)
Be there. Pay attention. Let people laugh, too, and find their way back into their lives. But be there.
Meanwhile, make good memories that you can turn to and delight in. Enjoy the day. Stop and smell the roses.
The book is a study in grief, trauma and life altering events. Leigh interviews those who have been faced with some of the most incomprehensible loss or those who have overcome major traumatic events, she does so with a practical approach but always with compassion and kindness. Being an acclaimed journalist she had been confronted with interviewing many survivors and victims. People are curious by nature so satisfying the public’s curiosity while trying to respect and maintain the victims integrity and privacy is a difficult line to tread. The key to a great journalist is managing to get the subject to open up without traumatising them just to get a good story and Leigh Sales does a great job in showing how this can be done.
Leigh Sales is a well-respected journalist who has a prime-time show on the ABC - the Australian taxpayer-funded station similar to the NPR in the States and the BBC in the UK.
I was curious to read this best seller book, so I was happy to get it as an audiobook, especially since it was narrated by Sales herself.
Any Ordinary Day was quite interesting. I haven't read any books that looked at tragedy and how people cope and deal with the aftermath of such life-altering events. Sales interviews a few people who'd experienced tragedies, many of them implanted in the collective Australian minds thanks to the media interest.
I appreciated Sale's candid look at journalism, at what makes a journalist good, how at times, there's a very thin line between getting the story and showing sociopathic traits.
The takeaway for me is that "s--t does happen to good people", sometimes, more than once. There's no reason behind it. Most people are very resilient, beyond anything they could have imagined.
This was another reminder to stay in the moment, to appreciate the mundane, the seemingly boring because you never know.
couldn’t finish this one. I’m a massive fan of leigh’s journalism and podcasting, but her pop-psychology attempt didn’t hold my interest. I was interested in the idea behind this book and some of the subjects interviewed but I feel like she should have stuck to her strengths - interviewing, getting stories out of people, and then highlighting that more than scientific studies and statistics. it was also a pity because I did find her interview segments quite interesting, especially her segment about Port Arthur. I thought these interviews were well considered and definitely what I’m used to Leigh doing - interesting questions dealt with sensitively. the rest just...didn’t click for me.
I found truths in Leigh Sales’ writing about traumatic events that have blindsided people that I found confronting and had to heed.. I’ve been that person who doesn’t know what the right thing to say is to someone who’s experienced intense loss and so have ‘avoided the subject’. As many of the people Leigh interviewed for her book said, this lack of acknowledgement was the hardest to bear. However, this book sat uncomfortably with me. I think this sense of disquiet started when statistics were brought into it. How unlikely it is for someone to experience X event and possibly Y event too. I don’t believe everybody in society has the same-sized ticket in this lottery. There is a constant refrain in the book of the belief that these are things that happen to ‘other people’. One of the points made in the book is that random events occur and nobody is immune. Yet society is not a level playing field. For many, traumatic events, grief, loss and acts of violence are more LIKELY to happen to them because they don’t live in the bubble of being white, middle-class, beautiful, loved, etc etc. They don't necessarily believe that these things happen to 'other people' because these are things that happen to them more frequently. Homelessness, displacement, deaths of loved ones. They respond differently to such events because of experience. Towards the end of this book I grew more frustrated at the implication that blindsides are somehow ‘worse’ when they happen to the bubble people, though I’m sure this was not Leigh’s explicit intention. It troubled me when there was so much emphasis on how ‘good’ and ‘beautiful’ a person was. Of course, this reflects the media’s sensationalising of crime events, which Emily Maguire skewered so well in An Isolated Incident. So much focus on 'good people' who aren't 'deserving' of the events that befall them implies the inverse: that there are bad people out there, and they are more deserving of being blindsided. This is just my subjective gut reaction and reading of the points of the book, which were engagingly made in some chapters, particularly Mikac's. I think the second half of the book diluted the impact it might have made. I am sure that it will be of comfort and insightful to others.
Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales is good literary journalism. So good. I read it quickly, in three sittings.
A mix of interviews with people whose live have changed suddenly and often tragically, statistical research and memoir by Leigh. She reflects on her own writing and research for the book, and her mistakes as a journalist.
I kept sending screenshots of “wow” moments to a friend who has finished it.
While the topic is quite dark, and the interview subjects have been through some devastating tragedies, the book is joyous. There’s wonderfully light moments - like when Louisa Hope, who was in the Lindt Cafe siege recalls joking to the surgeon that she would have liked some liposuction, and the surgeon said her fat saved her; some moments when you realise the power of selflessness - like when. Walter Mikac reached out subtly to Matt Golinski (both men lost their wife and children suddenly); moments when you see the good in people - John Howard writing to the familiies of those killed in the war; and moments that show you just how tough Leigh Sales is.
Ultimately, as Wendy Liu who works in the morgue says, death and seeing death is often about love. And that’s what this book is about. It’s lovingly written, knitted together with hope and resilience.
Definitely recommend it. A smart, beautiful, spine tingling book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
In Any Ordinary Day, Australian journalist Leigh Sales takes a thoughtful look at the remarkable power of human endurance in the face of great loss and adversity.
Here, Sales shares with her readers a series of candid interviews, featuring members of the general public who have, in one role or another, been at the centre of some of Australia’s most memorable and devastating news stories over the past few decades - everything from the Thredbo landside and the Port Arthur massacre, to more recent tragedies like the Black Saturday bushfires and the Lindt Café siege are discussed within.
Ultimately, it's a collection of life experiences and shared insights of those ordinary yet remarkable Australian’s who just happened to have experienced tragedy and loss to an extreme degree at some point in their lives.
Sales did a fantastic job with this emotional and thought-provoking story. I can honestly say I was completely engrossed from start to finish.
I was really interested in the interviews with the individuals, but the premise of the book wasn't clear enough. What happens after the worst day of your life either wasn't strong enough to carry the book, or Sales didn't stick to it closely enough. So it seemed to meander into some pop psychology, statistics (which were repeated), secondary worst days, and other things that diluted the whole thing.
Loved it - such an interesting topic well handled. Was great to meet such a variety of people who were willing to open themselves up to this extent. All the cases are things I remember well so I found it really relevant. I loved Leigh revealing her own vulnerability too. Well done.
In 2014, respected Australian journalist Leigh Sales had a close brush with her own mortality and that of her unborn child. All turned out well in the end for both of them, but the traumatic experience made her think about how people handle severely traumatic events on the worst day of their life and move on. In this book she talks candidly to survivors and relatives of victims about what it is like to go through a horrific event, the effect of the media response and what it takes to rebuild their lives.
It's a testament to her interviewing skills that so many people were willing to talk candidly to her of their experiences and that she got them to open up so much that they could also talk about what got them through and how they have learnt to live and even grow from the experience. She not only talked to people who survived or lost loved ones in natural disasters or acts of terrorism but also to those behind the scenes such as the police who have to deliver the bad news, counselors at the morgue who help prepare newly bereaved people to view the bodies of their loved ones and the Coroner who has to listen to evidence and decide cause of death. It's a thoughtful and empathetic book with the hopeful message that while it is possible to find the resilience to survive the most horrific traumas, we should also be grateful for the ordinary days.
Most of us go through our day with a sense of invincibility. People don’t spend their lives thinking that a catastrophic event, one that could irreversibly change their lives, could ever happen to them. Most people don’t walk around thinking that they are vulnerable, and yet terrible things can and do occur. This book investigates the devastating effects that these out-of-the-blue events have on ordinary people’s lives, and how they learned to accept and move on from these type of unexpected accidents.
This book features people who suffered from high profile tragedies, among others, a woman who survived the Lindt cafe siege in Sydney, a man whose wife and two children lost their lives in the Port Arthur’s massacre, a man who witnessed the loss of his wife in the Thredbo landslide and then lost his second wife to breast cancer, a young man who survived 43 days in the Himalayan snows, a woman whose husband was murdered by his paranoid son (her stepson). The big question is: How can a person endure the sudden and violent death of a loved one and carry on with their lives?
This book is, undeniably, an emotional read. Hearing people talk about their experiences sends chills down your spine. Reading the details of their stories of loss breaks your heart, you can’t but feel their pain. For example, when asked if he ever questioned whether he could find love again after having tragically lost two partners in a short span of time, a man replied:
I think of the way we can make space in our hearts to love people – you have one child and you think, I could never love another child the way I love my firstborn. Then you have another child and you’re like, Oh, I do love them. It’s the same and different, because they’re a different person. Somehow your heart can expand to carry love for many people. Maybe it’s the same with pain. We can carry so much more than we think we can, whether that is love or pain. The pain is love. It’s just the manifestation of the sad side of losing someone, as opposed to them being with you.’
I found this man’s words insightful and heartbreaking.
The resiliency shown by the people in this book is impressive. When someone faces a traumatic event they will usually fall apart initially but eventually, incredibly, the majority adapt to their new normal. Sales investigates the source of this strength and the factors that allow people to heal.
It turns out that some people can dig deep and find resources within themselves that they didn’t know they had. Some people find comfort and meaning in their faith, others on a purpose (e.g. starting a campaign to ensure that what happen to them won’t happen again). The personality traits that make adaptation more likely and enable recovery include optimism, extroversion and a healthy ego. It helps if the person is emotionally resourceful and able to employ some coping tools. One of these is the ability to substitute the last tragic moments of their loved ones with memories of happy times.
Surprisingly, studies suggest that 30-80 % of people go beyond adjustment and adaptation into what is called “‘post-traumatic growth”, eventually experiencing positive personal transformation after a traumatic event such as terrorist attacks, earthquakes, the loss of children, sexual assaults, paralysis caused by accidents, cancer diagnoses, etc. These changes can be small (starting to notice the everyday beauty of thing around them) or large (trigger change in careers or relationships).
I really liked the author’s approach to the subject. She spent time speaking directly with the victims, exhaustively preparing for face-to-face interviews. Being a prize winning journalist Sales is skilled in this process, she is not shy of asking the hard questions, the ones that the public really wants to know.
I also appreciated Sales’ candor in addressing the thorny issue of the role the press plays during a catastrophe or tragedy that hits at national level. In news business, she explains, a story get old very quickly, what is a scoop one day it becomes stale only a week later. Speed is essential, but Sales is aware that her questions can exacerbate the pain and grief on her interviewees.
The interest of the media is often too intense for individuals and their families to bear alone, these are people traumatized and probably still in shock. For people who are not used to the spotlight, a spokesperson can deal effectively with the need for information from the public fed by the constant news coverage. Employing a professional media manager can be the way to go through the frenzy at a time when they are most vulnerable.
Finding ways in which others can provide support in times of bereavement was another interesting aspect of the book. Some individuals seem to know how to comfort others, how do they know what to say or do to help? Where does their empathy and compassion comes from? What is unique to them? The author seeks the answers to these questions from a kind priest, a thoughtful police officer and a compassionate forensic counselor (who works at the morgue where the families formally identify the bodies of their loved ones).
I found the subject of this book extremely interesting. Although the examples are taken from Australian events, the value of the book and the lessons included are universal. It’s well written book, meticulously researched and heartfelt that I would highly recommend to anyone. 4.5 stars
Fav. quotes: Some people are blessed with instinctive emotional intelligence. They just seem to know the right things to say and do at times of grief and loss. Undoubtedly, experience helps too; the nature of their jobs taught Graham and Steve how to behave. Most of us probably aren’t so adept around the bereaved. We bumble about, sometimes making things worse, as Juliet and Walter found. Emotional incompetence isn’t limited to individuals, either. If you’ve ever spent time in hospitals or courts, or rung a bank when a loved one has died, you’ll know that institutions can be particularly bad at compassion. Navigating an impersonal bureaucracy can seem bewildering at the best of times and downright heartless at the worst.
The type of death, for example, can be enormously influential on the ability of those left behind to adapt. Suicides are notoriously difficult to process because the victim is also the perpetrator. The grief at the loss and the anger at its cause are tied in a terrible knot.
The question of life being fair or unfair is one of the first things to drop away once you truly understand that you’re as vulnerable as the next person to life’s vagaries. The random distribution of misfortune is perhaps the only thing in life that is fair. No amount of money, fame, power or beauty can save you from tragedy, illness or death if they’re coming for your family. I have a heaping plate of things in life that aren’t fair – nice parents, a peaceful country, a good brain, sound health and caring friends. I didn’t do anything to deserve any of that.
'... it feels self- indulgent and attention seeking...'
That is a direct quote from the book (page 41) and to my mind it captures the entire book to a T. Obviously, I did not like this book and feel I am being more than generous giving it a two star rating, at times the reading of it was one or even negative stars.
Also, it seems to me this book only exists on the strength of the author's profile as a journalist and if you like her as a journalist, perhaps you will like this book? Personally I don't watch Teeve and I had never heard of the author. The concept behind the book is interesting enough; it starts from a personal crisis making the author question and examine fears and recovery from major trauma, how 'Any ordinary day' can become the worst day of your life and why it happens to some people and not others (spoiler; it is bad luck, just pure statistical chance).
From the start the book seemed aimless to me, perhaps I am just not the target audience because it seems like the target audience must be people like the author, well off, privileged people cushioned from the 'slings and arrows' until any shock is incomprehensible. People who, (apparently) go through life with significant fears of death, terrorism or other, extremely unlikely horrors (the author runs the probabilities on those likelihoods, by the way during the book). Now the really weird thing about this, is that such fears are played upon, and engineered by the media -you know? People like the author- in order to suck people into stories, this is pretty well documented, it is even in journo textbooks, but the author mostly glances over that part.
The author claims to have done a lot of research on trauma, recovery and statistics, of which we do get bits here and there, (also a bit of a 'magical thinking' rundown) but the self indulgent part of the book is the most part of it. The author then goes out to interview people who survived terrible things: survivors from the Lindt Café terrorist event. Bush fires. Floods. James Scott who survived being lost in the Himalayas for over 40 days and then probably regretted having survived when the media CRUCIFIED him and everyone around him.... I can't tell you how indignant it made me that the author finds the circus around him understandable, but it does truly underline how inhumane and how oblivious of their inhumanity the media can be. Poor old Scott Diver who survived both the 1997 Thredbo landslide, the media around it and many things since. A Port Arthur survivor is in there too.
During a lot of these interviews another descriptive crept into my evaluation of this book; as well as self-indulgent and attention seeking I would add 'Ghoulish'. Not that fascination with disasters and the survivors of them is exceptionally bad, that is a human thing, however regrettable. But the authors attitude to these things leaves a lot to be desired. Though, I did find it a bit more readable after she started admitting some fault: That journalists, including herself, do some pretty repugnant things to traumatised survivors in order to get stories their publishers and audience enjoy. That recognition was insufficient however and there appear to be no regrets. Also she never does more than dance around the question of the harm journalists do routinely cause, the inhumanity they exhibit and the fact that the are often creating or exacerbating fears in those members of the public who watch or read their stories. I was actually quite angry a lot of the time while reading this book.
The authors fascination with disaster survivors came across to me as ghoulish and creepy. Her attempts to make the book seem scholarly were negligible. Her eager excitement over strong media images of misery was made rather nauseating by the complete lack of ethical thinking she exhibits. Furthermore the aimlessness of the opening chapters was a predictor to the rest of the book which never holds together as anything other than an excuse for her to indulge in a personal fascination by interviewing people who survived horrible stuff.
I disagree with reviews that label it 'moving and sensitive' I saw no sensitivity, NONE! 'Thought provoking' says The Australian.... but 'Anger provoking' would be more accurate in my case.
Finally, because this review reignited my indignation in the content I read through, I will add something I wasn't going to, because it feels like a personal attack on the authors experience. This isn't a really nice thing to do when she has shared a personal experience. BUT I just read over 200 pages of her attacking and demeaning other people's personal experiences, so by now I feel just fine about my own, small, insignificant personal attack: This book was apparently triggered by a personal experience that was so unimaginably horrible to our little princess of an author that it made her question her subconscious belief that the world was always going to be good to her. How 'any ordinary day' could start out ordinary but end in tragedy. That event? A difficult birth.
Yes, ok, a very difficult birth, things went wrong, they had to operate, it was premature and there were, initially fears for the babies future. Not to minimise that - it would definitely shake you and make you question your mortality (If you never had before and it sounds like she had not) but first world problems much? In Australia, which has excellent medical facilities and by the sound of it she even had ALL the private health care... Again, it seems very self indulgent and very self centered and very, very attention seeking to make that event conflate with 65 hours trapped in a landslide after feeling your wife die next to you.
Postscript. 04/03/21 I am still annoyed an indignant about this book. To escalate my feelings of disgust, within a couple of weeks of reading this stinker, I met another woman who had a similar but far WORSE birth experience. That remarkable woman did not have private healthcare and was matter of fact about the experience, unlike this author who seems to feel like it was earth shattering than a bad thing happened to her. There is a good Australian saying she may be unfamiliar with ; "Suck it up princess"
I feel churlish to give this book 2 stars because I like Leigh Sales, I appreciate her intent in investigating trauma and resilience, and I appreciate her sharing herself and her process so honestly. I really wanted to like this book, but I just didn't.
Somehow, Sales' intent in writing this book became confused, even completely lost for me while reading. Firstly, it seemed that after experiencing several severe traumas, she wanted to explore the day after, how do people cope with being blindsided and traumatized on an ordinary day and what life looks like after disaster. So we get various interviews with trauma victims of natural disaster, terrorist attacks, illness, wilderness survival, even a politician who was prime minister through some of the worst disasters on how he dealt with people who were traumatized. These interviews formed one narrative arc in her assignment, oops, I mean book. And it was, for me, tedious reading, something that I would expect to read in one of those magazines they sell in supermarkets.
Then she veers toward evolutionary and brain science to explain how we expect nothing bad will happen to us, then when it does, we adapt to almost anything and return to a spirit-level set-point of contentment that we are programmed to return to. The brain uses many strategies from which to delude us that continuing to live after such horrific trauma is okay to do, religious faith being one of them and a common thread in the interviewees in this book. None of this was new but formed an interesting focus in the book.
The third arc in this book is an exploration and exculpation of the predatory media in producing an added layer of trauma to victims, either by hounding them mercilessly or interviewing them roughly (did you really survive 43 days in the Himalayas or are you faking it?) when probably all they needed was to be left alone to deal with their grief. And here, Ms. Sales lost me completely and actually turned my stomach. Her justifications for such parasitic behavior were banal and self-serving.
"ultimately you serve the public above all else...it was a story for which the public had an insatiable hunger."
Puhlese. The public has an insatiable hunger for Big Macs too, so what? What a cop-out, sacrificing empathy and kindness to feed the Beast of public curiosity. Yuck.
Because I do think Leigh Sales is a kind and empathetic person, and her confessions (because that's is what they were) in this book of things she was ashamed of having done in the name of public interest, proved her discomfort in being a party to those moments. And good for her to be courageous enough to say so. I just didn't get that she wouldn't do it again if the story was big enough. It struck a sour chord for me.
So now I have come to what was crucially missing for me throughout this book. Sales brings such an inordinate level of detachment and clinical reporting in this book about Trauma that I felt I was reading through a layer of antiseptic gauze. This is not a brightly lucid analysis, instead, we have a fuzzy earnestness that obscures and deflects the pain. She stands outside of what she is reporting and I could never FEEL the painful truth of traumatic experience. And she knows she is doing it:
"Perhaps my desire to stand back and observe rather than swim into the depths explains why I'm a journalist. Watching and reporting feels safer than participating. Unfortunately, that's not how life works."
Contrasting this book against Chloe Hooper's The Arsonist, another book about a national disaster and tragedy, shows how trauma and tragedy come alive in the hands of a writer. You could feel the heat, the grit, you were with those people in their horror. Leigh Sales is a journalist. She reports. For me, her writing never penetrates any further than that, it never got under my skin. She keeps her reader "in the stands" with her, observing but not participating. I could see her conducting these interviews on Australian Story, perfect television viewing. And then, what for me really ruined this book, she ends with exhortations about enjoying the moment we have, the ordinary days that are not ordinary but magic in hindsight. After pages of showing us how cruel, unfair and capricious fate is, it seemed that she wanted to leave us a "balm" which felt almost, hmmm, like she thought she needed to reassure us, to give us the take away lesson from all this horror; she left us with nice, earnest, kind, optimistic, delusional, feel-good Carpe-Diem platitudes.
Leigh Sales is a well-known journalist here in Australia and she's received many awards for her contributions to journalism and her work on the ABC. Having spent years reporting on all manner of breaking news stories, Sales began to wonder how people coped with the life altering experiences and traumatic events and losses she was reporting on. She recognised her role as a journalist was to report often tragic and heartbreaking news, whilst acknowledging that the people she was interviewing were often in the midst of their own private nightmare and sometimes even the worst day of their lives.
Sales draws on events ripped straight from Australian headlines that more often than not, began as an ordinary day, informing her title of choice.
Sales interviews Walter Mikac about the Port Arthur Massacre, Stuart Diver about his rescue in Thredbo and subsequent losses and fellow author Hannah Richell about the drowning death of her husband Matt. She speaks to victims and survivors from all walks of life who have faced all manner of traumatic situations from accidents to natural disasters and acts of terrorism. She asks the tough questions about fear, fate, loss, trauma, death, grief, resilience, recovery, healing and hope in an effort to understand how we can better support those going through these events and perhaps even how to prepare ourselves for that one in a million moment.
Leigh Sales has no problem admitting her own shortcomings as a journalist and her fears about delving into the deep and meaningful with those in our community who have had the misfortune of suffering a great loss in some of the most unexpected and newsworthy of ways.
In listening to the audiobook from the library, my only complaint was that I wanted more depth in her research on the topic and I could hear her swallow throughout the entire recording which was very distracting.
Her insights are interesting and informative and while I was already very familiar with the stories of her interviewees, I did find the author's exploration of them moving. The interview with former Prime Minister John Howard was inspiring and I found myself wondering how he would lead us in our current COVID-19 crisis.
Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales is full of empathy and is a successful attempt by the author to delve deeper into human nature and our resilience to the unthinkable. In 2019, Leigh Sales received the Walkley Book Award for Any Ordinary Day but for me it was a three star read. Recommended.
Finished: 04.10.2018 Genre: non-fiction Rating: A++++++ #AWW2018 Conclusion: If you have a pulse...and I know you do this book will grab you and not let go. Absolutely inspiring! Sometimes I have to let a book sink in for a few days....and this was one of them. Last year I commented on my post 23 Nov 2017 about losing somebody dear to us. We don't realize we were making memoires back then when times were better...festive family get-to-gethers …we were just having fun. When some leaves you life there's no one to share your memories anymore. They become like secrets. I must mention the new book by Leigh Sales 'An Ordinary Day'. My review (NF) was so short on #AWW2018 because the book had such an impact on me...I was at a loss for words. But every day I think about that book...every day. Leigh Sales managed to make me realize that if you look around your 'ordinary day'...in hindsight they are nothing but miraculous. Life can change in an instant. As I watch the news this past week with a devastating Hurricane Michael...people's homes are blasted from the face of the earth. If you are feeling contemplative....'An Ordinary Day' is worth reading....it put life into perspective for me.
2.5 stars. I’m glad I read it, there was definitely stuff to take out of it. But I don’t feel like it was the book it marketed itself as? It was much less about the people whose stories it was supposed to be sharing and more about the author’s experience of those stories. Maybe if you’re a big fan of the author it would be great, but I wasn’t very invested in her perspective and how it affected her. I would have preferred in depth profiles of each person she interviewed with her personal stories confined to the intro and conclusion. Also it was very centrist and white, a very narrow view of these kind of experiences. Oh and why did we need a physical description (including attractiveness) of every person she interviewed?
This book was a timely read for me. I'm a clinical psychologist and one of my dear clients who I'd already been seeing for several months suffered a sudden, and unbearably tragic loss. This book affirmed something I sensed amidst my own feelings of horror and helplessness, which was that although she had come to me as a psychologist, in the immediate aftermath she needed my humanity above and beyond my psychological knowledge. The message about accompanying people in grief spoke to me, and I was especially moved by the chapter that showed how a priest and a detective had brought their ordinary humanity into the picture to accompany a particular woman in the early stages of her grief. I loved this book so much.
*https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com The Walkley Book Award recognises high achievement in non-fiction and long form journalism. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales was the winner of the 2019 Walkley Award, which follows her 2012 Walkley Award for online reporting, along with her 2005 best radio current affairs reporting award. Any Ordinary Day explores loss, trauma and tragedy, with an emphasis on the aftermath of these tragic events. Any Ordinary Day opens up an enlightening conversation about traumatic moments and great loss, reminding us of the strength of the human spirit to endure – in the face of adversity.
Journalist Leigh Sales has been exposed to many different situations that have sadly been the most horrific and unforgettable days in a person’s life. Not only has Sales experienced her own trauma first hand, she has often been first on the scene to report the heartbreaking stories in the media that we cannot shake. These include the Thredbo disaster and the Café Lindt siege. In this process, Sales ponders her own beliefs and mortality, along with the hard statistics around the probability of trauma. Speaking first hand to those who have directly experience terrorism, unexpected loss and natural disasters, Sales’ approach is close and trusted. Despite the randomness of these events and the unfairness of it all, hope emerges as a core theme. Any Ordinary Day is a symbol of strength, overcoming hard times and bravery.
A friend of mine listened to the audio book version of Any Ordinary Day and highly recommended this book to me. When I was alerted to the fact that this book won the 2019 Walkley Book Award, I was able to use this as an opportunity to mark off the final category of Book Bingo 2019, a ‘prize winning book’.
I found Any Ordinary Day to be quite unique and I have to say, I don’t think I have come across a book like this before. On the one hand it offers a rich journalistic exploration into tragedy, but on the other hand, Any Ordinary Day is also a very personal meditation on Sales’ own belief system in relation to trauma. This is a poised investigation into the elasticity of the human spirit. At times it will induce tears and heartbreak. At other times Any Ordinary Day will bring semblance and hope.
Any Ordinary Day begins with the personal trauma experienced by Leigh Sales directly when she gave birth to her second son. I was able to connect and empathise this story very easily, having also experienced my own traumatic labours. In relaying her experiences, it became apparent to me that the process of writing and reflecting on her own trauma was very cathartic for Sales. It also reminds us that no one is immune from trauma, it can happen anywhere and at any time, we must brace ourselves for the precarious nature of life.
Following her own reflections, which she bravely shares, Sales puts on her reporting hat. Sales reflects on a number of key headline events that she was directly involved in reporting to the public. Via interviews with a range of people at the front line of some of our country’s most defined and traumatic events, we travel to the heartbreaking core of these life changing days. From the Lindt Café disaster, to the Port Arthur massacre and Theredbo, each figure or event is outlined with honesty and professional integrity. I found each story merged well into the other, which is interspersed with reflections by Sales.
For me, I was personally moved by the story of Matt Richell, who passed away in tragic surfing accident. Sales collaborated with Richell’s widow, Hannah, one of my favourite writers on this piece, which visibly moved me to tears. However, Hannah’s altered mindset following the loss of her husband and her courage inspired me. I also found some of the most enlightening aspects of Any Ordinary Day came from those on the front line, who we often forget when we cast out minds back to these traumatic events. From the police offers, lifeguards, counsellors, morgue workers and a priest, Sales draws on a variety of perspectives to complete her investigations. Furthermore, Sales draws on opinion, from the former Prime Minister John Howard, along with a variety of statistical and research information, which gives further footing to Any Ordinary Day.
Twenty two pages of notes supporting Any Ordinary Day, provides us with a good indication of just how much research went into the production of this book. In addition, the concept of post–traumatic growth, a term I had not encountered prior to this book, raised my awareness of this changed mindset, which is the product of adversity. This psychological mind shift is an important process experienced by many of the main subjects in this book and I found it deeply profound.
Any Ordinary Day offers a balanced approach to trauma, loss, grief and the unexpected. This moving book provides an extensive examination into the impact of tragedy on the human spirit. Leigh Sales’ third book is undeniably emotional, hard hitting, life affirming and hopeful. Above all, Any Ordinary Day is a novel for all Australians, warning us about the fragility, as well as the unexpected nature of our day to day existence.
Any Ordinary Day is book #147 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge
Any Ordinary Day is an interesting and reflective book, very well paced and highly readable. Next time you see a news story about a terrible event and find yourself thinking “I could never survive something like that”, you’ll want to be able to turn to this book for proof that ordinary people survive the unthinkable every day, and most of us have buried reserves of resilience.
It's fair to say that until a recent turn of events occurred in my life, I have never really experienced "trauma". Certainly, a few shitty things have happened to me in my life but nothing that has shaken me to my core.
In the aftermath of said trauma my dearest friend happened to mention a podcast she had listened to by Leigh Sales over a dinner gathering. I swiftly listened to the podcast then ran to the first book store I could find to purchase Any Ordinary Day.
In the wake of the most unfathomable tragedies, Leigh Sales explores how people react after the worst day of their lives. To say I was riveted would be an understatement.
The people she interviewed for the book in some cases have experienced multiple traumatic life events. My own experience and reactions to what I believe was the worst day of my life have been completely unprecedented so I eagerly wanted to hear the reactions of others.
We all think we would know how we would cope getting any type of bad news but until it happens you really don't. In every case those interviewed for the book emerged stronger, wiser, kinder. My regret is not having a highlighter in my hand as I read it. But I will read it again.
In in the aftermath of my own trauma two people in my life fronted up and showed me such kindness that my view of friendships was also transformed. Much like the survivors in Sales book I have come to view kindness in a whole new light.
"I'm so changed. I'm so different. I feel like I've sort of had a layer of skin removed. I'm still me, I still hold the same values. But I'm able to live my life now in a very different way. I just find peace and beauty in the smallest moments now...……...it's as if surviving the hardest thing - the greatest pain - frees me to live more courageously. You can crumble and give up. Or you can keep living and loving. I choose the latter". Hannah Richell
‘The day that turns a life upside down usually starts like any other.’
In this book, which is part investigation and part reflection, Leigh Sales looks both how ‘ordinary’ people face unexpected and often horrific twists and turns in their lives. And, in looking at her role as a journalist, Leigh Sales reflects on her own actions including how she interviews these people.
‘What prompted me to begin writing this book was the thought of what might happen if I walked towards what I most feared, rather than in the opposite direction.’
The interviews in this book are different from those we have seen on the ABC 7.30 Report. Here we have some insight into Ms Sales’s preparation and presentation. Her interviewees include those who have lost family members, those who came close to death themselves, as well as a police officer, a coroner, a priest, a social worker and former prime minister, John Howard. Ms Sales also writes of her own brush with death involving herself and her unborn child.
Ms Sales writes, too, of how we perceive risk. How, for example, we might be more concerned about the danger of an amusement park ride, or a plane flight (both rare) than being in a car (unfortunately common).
‘To live life, we have to take risks, most of which we will never even know we’re taking.’
When writing about the roles and responsibilities of journalists, Ms Sales acknowledges that she has made mistakes. She refers to her interview of a grandmother following Hurricane Katrina, and how the woman’s grandson intervened.
I found this book thought-provoking and informative. It both explores the different ways in which we approach grief and offers insights into how we can help those grieving. It reminds us to consider the consequences of our own actions.
What an absolutely beautiful book made even more powerful by listening to Leigh’s narration on Audible. Very grateful for Leigh daring greatly to capture these stories, to accompany grief and to share some lessons learned.
None of us know when something will happen that changes everything. And we have no ability to control or prevent death and grief visiting us and our loved ones. Understanding how other people have endured grief does not give you a blueprint but it does give you faith in our resilience and the kindness of others.
The key take away - be kind. Take that forward every day.
There's so much to say about what we humans think we can withstand.
Honestly, this book fucked me up.
I'd never heard of Leigh Sales, but I admire her humanity. It felt like journalism but with a social work spin. There were times like this book felt like it could venture into trauma/tragedy-porn territory, like for example, the woman's account of the Lindt Cafe Seige. However, I'm conflicted because I don't really think it's Leigh Sales writing that makes it trauma/tragedy-porn but the situation and the voyeuristic nature of reading a first or secondhand account of something insane and disturbing.
Leigh Sales is exceedingly self-aware in her writing and I think that's one of her best qualities and that's what manages to balance out the moments that could be considered on a base-level trauma/tragedy-porn.
The deep look into people's painful and traumatic experiences was eye-opening. Leigh Sales pulls no punches getting into the hard questions surrounding the path to stability or recovery after loss, death and various other traumatic situations. It really informed my viewpoint on the importance of having empathy. Some shit can never be explained and it isn't our job as human beings to explain the unexplainable. It's a hard thing to learn and understand, especially working in social work/social services because you naturally want to help people find peace or make a way towards stability. We aren't here to assess tragedy and leap into action that doesn't necessarily help folks. I learned a lot about empathy in reading this book.
There's so much more to say about this book but it made me think of my own mortality. It made me think about what I would do or how I'd react in any of the situations described, and I came up with nothing. I was really engaged by the way that she delicately examines the voids left behind by departed loved ones and just how jarring survival can be for those who lived through terrorist attacks, homicides, etc.
It's a crazy fucking book but I feel like it unlocked something inside of me and provided a concrete reminder that I will never be prepared for anything traumatic that happens in life.
There's no way to prepare for trauma. However, we cannot live in fear. As much of a cliche as it may sound, it's so important to live each day like you ain't going to get another, cause in reality, on any ordinary day, you might not and someone you know might not.
I’m a big fan of Sales the journalist, and also of her collaborations with the wonderful Annabel Crabb, so had really been looking forward to reading this. Like Sales, my own instinct is to recoil from traumatic events and those directly affected, to the extent that I’m ashamed to admit I have avoided funerals I probably should have attended, I’ve written banal and useless condolence messages because I haven’t been able to find the “right words”, and have felt the self-centred relief of the thought “Thank God that wasn’t me / my family”. I have immense admiration for those who have the courage and compassion to run towards grief and devastation, rather than away from it - and by that I mean those who are focussed on helping - the emergency workers, counsellors, medical professionals and “ordinary people” - rather than Sales’s journalistic colleagues. In this book, Sales interviews several individuals and families who were at the centre of several of Australia’s most familiar tragedies - the Lindt Cafe siege, the Thredbo landslide, the Port Arthur shooting, as well as those who’ve suffered unimaginable private tragedies. The resilience, self-awareness and even humour exhibited by these previously “ordinary people” is quite amazing. Sales’s respect and desire to understand the ramifications of suffering trauma under the media microscope is palpable. She lays herself open on the few occasions she feels ashamed by her own behaviour as a journalist at the sharp end of satisfying the public’s desire for salacious detail and intrusive footage. Interwoven among the personal stories are the results of Sales’s research into the science and theory of fear, trauma and recovery. I found these sections fascinating in their revelations of the commonality of human experience, and, quite often, complete irrationality when it comes to how we process tragedy, whether that be globally significant events, local news stories or the un-newsworthy but life-changing experiences of those we know. Sales’s work brought me a great deal more insight into why I act the way I do, and others they way they do, making me resolve to be braver and do better myself in the future. It also made me contemplate the larger context question of how we all feed the media’s ghoulish thirst for details of those affected by tragic events. A really thought-provoking and challenging read.
I have long admired Leigh Sales as an investigative journalist. What I most appreciated in her book was her willingness to reveal not only her strengths, but particularly her fears, insecurities and most human responses to the traumas she was personally encountering and those of the people she interviewed. The research undertaken allowed her to discuss psychological responses in dealing with the acknowledgement and aftermath of horrific losses due to the murder of loved ones, incidents of terror, catastrophic accidents - those unexpected events that are life-changing and seemingly without reason. Included in these accounts is the focus on individuals who have experienced "post-traumatic growth", those who have emerged stronger in their survival and sometimes able to return to a life of positive thinking. Sales explores what allows these individuals to rebuild their lives, what kind of responses from the people around them are the most beneficial in their "recovery", and how they view their catastrophic losses (as random, as fateful, as tests from God, etc). Her humility and openness in revealing her own reactions to the traumas she experienced reveal how she has been fortified by her own resilience and belief that "life is richer, kinder and safer than the news would have you believe." Thus, the book is not a record of human despair; rather, it encourages us to live in the present and believe "You will be okay." Sales deals with intense emotions as her interviewees allow her "in" - yet, like her reporting, there is never melodrama or sensationalism. And, there is always integrity in how she reports what they have told her.
Uhming and ahhing over the rating for this one. I think this is a really well thought out book, well researched and well executed in many respects. But I found the part with John Howard just despicable - and I know that's in part because of my lefty leanings but the idea that I should be sympathising with someone who feels bad about sending troops to support the Iraq War is totally beyond me. And that is without mentioning all the other miserable things policies his government championed led to.
There is another section that really brought the other messages of this book down for me as well where Sales admires a police officer for treating 'drug addicted prostitutes and middle aged mothers' the same way. Yeah huge clap for the both of you, that people who take drugs and do sex work deserve to not only have access to the justice system but to be treated the same way as the rest of regular society. Rack off.