Get Up Mum

Justin Heazlewood

Get Up Mum
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Get Up Mum

Justin Heazlewood

It’s 1992 in Burnie, Tasmania and 12-year-old Justin lives alone with his mum. When she is well, Mum is perfect. She knows he likes his carrots raw and his toast cooled, and she knows how to sooth his growing pains. But when she is sick she cries uncontrollably and never gets out of bed.

High school is on the horizon and Justin is bursting with adolescent energy. But his mum’s mental illness hangs over him like a shadow and he feels the need to grow up fast.

Told with youthful exuberance, Get Up Mum is a wildly endearing, entertaining and incredibly powerful memoir about love, family, and coming-of-age.

Review

Justin Heazlewood’s debut memoir launches the reader into the seemingly innocent world of a pre-pubescent boy in 1990s Australia. Giddy with joy, twelve-year-old Heazlewood meticulously details the small events that cause a child so much excitement – athletics carnivals, getting crushes on girls, and the affection of family.

Yet he also contrasts this with the struggle of having to grow up too fast. Get Up Mum tells the story of young Heazlewood living alone with his mother, who suffers from mental illness. At her highs, she is an attentive, caring mother, yet at her lows she struggles to leave her bed.

As a boy on the cusp of puberty, Heazlewood tenderly expresses what so many of us ultimately face, a fear of time and remorse over the transience of moments. This feels all the more acute at an age characterised by first-times and self-discovery.

The lows in this tale are always complemented by affectionate highs. Heazlewood displays wonder at the world and its possibilities for delight – in his grandmother’s garden, in salty fish and chips, in swims in the sea. Littered throughout the novel are lines of poetry that almost startle, asking to be read and re-read:

It’s so early but it’s not night and the day hasn’t started yet.
The world is on pause.
Everything is set like jelly inside a fridge, waiting to be dug into with a spoon.
For now it’s soft and gentle.

Life is vivid through Heazlewood’s eyes, and we are immediately transported back to an Australia characterised by Keating, Rage and Carlton losing the footy. YetHeazlewood’s wishes are not the wishes of a normal young boy; they are for his mother’s health and a regular childhood.

Get Up Mum is a warm, humorous memoir about coming of age, and the deep love between two individuals who need each other equally.


Caitlin Cassidy works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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