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As a child I knew Malcolm, who was then a young man, since Dad often invited him home for meals. He was one of the 'lost children' forgotten or abandoned by their families. We followed Malcolm's story from childhood to adulthood as best we could even after he was eventually discharged back into the community. When considering the tragedy and abuse of Malcolm's wasted earlier years, it is a story of immeasurable sadness. Yet he ultimately rose above it all, and with admirable strength, courage and innate resilience, was finally able to 'free the regular boy within' as he had always wanted.
This is Malcolm's story as I believe it unfolded
I was raised within the community of Seacliff village during the 1950s, with each of our family members working in the hospital at some time or another. We sometimes shared our primary school with young patients from the hospital. On turning fifteen we often worked up the hill, helping in the canteen, laundry, wards or occupational therapy. From a young age we absorbed the stories, and it was difficult to know where fiction ended and the greater truth took over.
To separate the truths from the almost-truths at this stage would be an impossible task as many of those concerned have died. Therefore I have blended together various stories in this narrative as representative of our family and friends' combined belief of what most probably did happen. Wherever possible, I have used correct dates, names and places. Where there is doubt I have changed names and details for the protection of those still living.
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About the Author
Although she writes from personal experience, she also uses anecdotal information from conversations and other peoples' stories, resulting in her characters taking on a life of their own and becoming larger than life.
Susan says, "As I write their stories, my characters will often lead me to places I couldn't imagine. So I relax and let them form as they will."
"I am passionate about my writing," she says. "I usually have three books on the go at any one time."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite Phenomena - The Lost and Forgotten Children by Susan Tarr tells the story of Malcolm who, through a series of circumstances, is placed in the care of the mental health services in New Zealand. From an early age, he lives in an institute for the insane under a system that would never be permitted in the 21st century. His story unfolds at intervals throughout the book in between stories of the other inmates, all of them heartbreaking. From his earliest days Malcolm tries to please, to be good, and we see how his very understandable actions and reactions are misinterpreted. Not only do we learn about the patients, but many members of the staff; some kind, others with little sympathy for the inmates. Susan Tarr has drawn on real people in Phenomena - The Lost and Forgotten Children. She tells us she was familiar with the hospital, living in the nearby village, and she often visited it when she was growing up. The book pulls at your heartstrings, the plight of both old and young who were not considered normal in the middle of the last century. While many of them suffered from severe mental disorders, others had slipped through the cracks and were there because they were an embarrassment to their families – Malcolm himself was possibly suffering from mild cerebral palsy. Other inmates were homosexual, severely depressed, and in one instance a pregnant teenager whose parents declared her dead because her behaviour threatened the political ambitions of her father. Although this was not an easy read, once I got into the book, I was hooked. The author handles the story with empathy and love. Her descriptions of the people, their living conditions, their trips out on special occasions and day to day lives are recounted skilfully, painting a complete picture and bringing the characters to life. You can’t help but grow to love them and connect with them. This is a really great read, highly recommended, and a stark reflection of life only a few decades ago.
"PHENOMENA: THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN CHILDREN" by author Susan Tarr is beautiful. Well written, poignant, descriptive, vivid and compelling. This is a moving story that I felt from the pit of my stomach. Heart wrenching and emotional. I give the author credit for doing it in such a graceful way. This is a powerful story that kept me glued to the pages all the way through. The main character Malcom’s story is one that is hard to walk away from. Near impossible to put this book down once I started reading! His story affected me a great deal and it was something that I thought about after I finished reading the book. Definitely had an impact. I would highly recommend this book. There are not many that leave such a lasting impression. I love that the author decided to devote her time, talents and efforts to writing Malcolm's story. It is surely a labor of love. "He waited to feel the need to talk. He felt nothing. There was little he could remember and nothing to encourage him to take an interest in his life. If he used to be different, like they said - and sometimes he knew they were right - they must have taken his thoughts captive and left him with only fringes and tatters, not enough to live with. He wondered where they stored his stolen thoughts. Maybe they stored them in the morgue with the little high-up window. Hah! As if memories would try to escape."