Raw, brutally honest and heart wrenchingly brave, Sue Gunningham has allowed us to follow her journey from complete devastation to recovery, some eight years after the tragedy that is now known as Black Saturday, the holocaust of a Victorian bushfire that claimed 173 lives and injured 414 people.
She had only recently spoken to the love of her life, her partner Barry, at the end of her working day. He told her the fires could not be seen, heard or smelt at that time. He said he was alert and watching out for any spot fires.
Sue decided to stay at her place in Greensborough some 25 kilometres from the fires and Barry would stay at Waldene. Some thirty minutes later the wildfire swept across Waldene and Barry would be one of the 173 people who perished in the fires.
All Sue could get later that evening was a recorded voice message; this went on for some time into the next day plunging her into a horror story that became her life. She has written an incredible story or diary if you prefer, of what comes next when the world you thought you knew and understood, comes crashing down around you.
The total honesty with which she details the emotional rollercoaster that follows after any disaster of this magnitude is heroic as she pieces together what happened, how it happened and struggles to cope with what came next.
As the story folds back Sue pays tribute to the countless people who held out a helping hand, the police who struggled to cope with the aftermath, the firemen who worked tirelessly during and long after the worst of the fires had passed through, to people who manned the evacuation centres, all of whom gave of their time and expertise to help her try to piece her life back together.
You feel her frustration, the denial of the destruction, the slow decent into absolute depression and the loving support of family and friends as the days, weeks and months roll along; each month bringing with it a new problem to be solved, hurdle to be overcome, with another stepping stone placed on the slow pathway to recovery.
Her story is a tribute to the human spirit, and is also a timely reminder that once the fires are out, the struggle to survive the aftermath of such devastation takes a long, long time; lasting long after the public have moved on to another disaster, another tragedy.
For anyone who works or is looking to work in the area of trauma and/or grief counselling, this should be a must read, as devastation to the level of the Black Saturday Fires tests all who are involved to the very limit, not just their core strength, but also their courage to continue!