Dear Charlie: Letters to a Lost Daughter
What would you do if the unthinkable happened? Reg Thompson's collection of letters to his daughter is an eloquent and unsparing attempt to answer this question that no parent wants to think about. Shortly after his pre-teen daughter Charlie and her friend Olivia were killed on an unsafe railway crossing, on their way to go Christmas shopping, Reg started to write to her.
His letters glow with love and wry humour, but the horror of what his family is enduring is never far away as he recreates the experience of living with a beautiful, bolshie child who 'never did anything by halves.' It is particularly hard to read about Charlie's mother, who struggles with tough memories of trying to discipline her headstrong daughter. You can also see how the tragedy brings family and friends together, changing the relationship between Reg and his mother, the children's 'Oma,' who encourages him to publish his letters to Charlie.
The odd flash of laugh-out-loud humour illuminates the pages as Reg recalls his daughter's generosity and outrageousness, and attempts to navigate the day-to-day business of looking after his family and running a business while half-mad with grief. There is a beautiful empathy moment where Reg and a stranger- an Italian man called in to check the gas levels- share their stories of loss, prompted by a photo of Charlie. 'Another member of this terrible brotherhood,' Reg reflects, taking comfort in feeling less alone- something that his extraordinary book was able to do for so many.