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Book Review: Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here

Updated: Feb 22

Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here: A Memoir of Loss and Discovery, by Heather Rose

(Reviewed by Johanna Baker-Dowdell)

It seems fitting that the first review I write for the Tamar Valley Writers Festival is for Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here: A Memoir of Loss and Discovery (Allen & Unwin, 2022) by Heather Rose because my introduction to Rose was at the event’s first iteration: The Festival of Golden Words.

As an eager festival attendee and aspiring author, I was lapping up every session I could, but the one I remember most clearly was the panel featuring Heather Rose, speaking about The River Wife. As Rose described the Tasmanian setting for The River Wife it occurred to me that a place can be a character as much as a person. I was captivated by Rose’s powerful words then, and continue to be now, with Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here.

Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here is a collection of personal essays, thoughts and insights spanning Rose’s life from childhood to the present day. Rose contemplates some of the bigger questions we all wrestle with: what do I believe, what does love look like, how do you parent, what does grief look like and how do you carry on when everything feels like it is imploding?

I was fascinated to read Rose’s take on these – and many other – questions and her deeply honest response to everything life has thrown her. However, I was equally fascinated to read about her extraordinary life, from early memories of herself asking the big questions, to the horrific tragedy that clearly reshaped Rose’s entire family, through her courageous globetrotting, her relationships and, finally, how she deals with chronic pain.

There were many times I found myself nodding along with Rose’s insights about herself and relating them back to myself as a fellow parent, a writer, a woman and somebody who also has learned to live with chronic pain.

I interviewed Rose when Bruny was released in 2019 and it was a conversation I have cherished ever since because it covered so much ground and left me inspired. I hung up the phone feeling like I’d had a nourishing chat with an old friend. Reading Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here left me with the same feeling afterwards ­­­– like we’d had another long conversation, but she had summoned up the courage to finally share a long-held secret. I felt an almost voyeuristic pull to keep diving into Rose’s words because this memoir contains such deep and compelling insights into her life, thoughts and beliefs.

Something Rose and I discussed during that 2019 interview was my own writing. I still think about the ideas she had for my works then and have kept them filed away for a future novel. Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here inspires me to keep feeding my creativity and be a better writer but, more importantly, Rose’s struggle with illness and pain reminded me to be gentler on myself, and those around me. I appreciated the reminder.

Johanna Baker-Dowdell is a communications specialist and author. She is also the Vice-President of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival committee.


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