I inhaled this memoir in one breathless sitting, astonished at the energy, rawness and honesty of Natasha Sholl’s Found, Wanting (Ultimo Press 2022). This is a story about grief, loss and death but it is also an interrogation of the narrator’s feelings and beliefs (some perfectly normal, some irrational) about her part in the lives of those who have died, the terrible agony of living with grief, and the resilience she shows in the face of despair.

They say that to truly grieve, you must first have loved. And this book demonstrates that in a powerful way. Natasha and her partner Rob were celebrating their love on Valentine’s Day – they were young, inseparable, soulmates. At only 27, Rob dies in their bed, asleep, of a massive heart attack. This story is about how Natasha, then only in her early twenties, navigates the enormous hole in her life left by Rob’s absence, how she negotiates the tricky relationships with family (both hers and his), how she loses herself to blame and self-reproach, self-loathing and mourning, and how she begins to put herself together again, only to have another death fell her all over again. The process of loss begins anew; the cyclical course of shock, outrage, denial, anger, blame, retribution, acceptance – not necessarily in that order, and not ever finished; the feelings and emotions cycling through in an endless loop.

Those of you who know Natasha Sholl will know that soon after the publication of this memoir, and its positive reception as an unflinching examination of grief, yet another tragedy struck her and her new family, this time affecting one of her children. Having just read this memoir, I cannot imagine how she is still standing, and yet she does, because what choice do we have when faced with trauma? Whatever life throws at us, if we cannot change it, we must tolerate it (if not accept it), we must fight and we must hold on to whatever good we are able to find.

Every single person in the history of the universe has died. That’s a simple fact. And yet … our ability to comprehend the death of someone we love is always complicated by fear and anger and unpreparedness and loneliness. We are never ready. This book is for anyone who has lost someone, or to prepare you for losing someone. No two people grieve in the same way. Grief is messy, unpredictable, at times unmanageable. But this is one woman’s grief story, written in simple, raw, honest language. Sholl admits when she is mired in loss, unable to function, unable even to eat. She writes with courage about her own self-loathing and blame that she (unfairly) placed on herself. The what ifs and if onlys … what if she had made different choices? Her writing is refreshingly candid and frank, her thoughts unfiltered, and her actions and reactions described in confronting but authentic detail.

Found, Wanting is powerful and devastating, compelling and unputdownable, beautiful and optimistic and hopeful. It is a memoir I will never forget.