The thing that screams most impressively in this tale about the real Turia Pitt, is her raw honesty and dogged determination, a stubbornness to not just never give in but to always push further. True grit is often bandied about as a commodity easily sourced from the self-help section of our bookshops, but this account of someone who has literally been to hell and back, presents life in all its glory, normality and of course horror with unashamed frankness.
Having survived the awful fire event in 2011 whilst competing in an outback marathon, Pitt allows the reader to relive her fear, pain and frustrations, before, immediately after being engulfed by flames and then beyond, down the long arduous road of recovery.
Along the way she bears more and more layers of herself, some relating to the 'old Turia', others glimpses of the new improved Turia. Improved because as she asserts, if she had not experienced such trauma, her life and future convictions may not have evolved as resolutely as they have.
Turia's inner strength appears to have been forged of steel, an internal fortitude and attitude that she has always possessed thanks to her upbringing and inherent character. The fire merely tempered that core of steel, intensifying her beliefs, philosophies and tenacity.
Unmasked is not just a deeper exploration of the lady behind her physical and emotional scars. It's a demonstration of the indomitable spirit of one human who refuses to see failure when she looks in the mirror, who looks defeat straight in the face and scoffs at it. And then runs a marathon just to prove she can.
The thing about this edition of Pitt's story is its extreme accessibility to young people. Teens are the main audience but self-doubt, lack of confidence and feelings of hopelessness can dump on any one of us any time. It doesn't always take a dramatic event to send your courage packing. Pitt's conversational candor speaks directly to young people assuring them that the tough choices are often the best ones whilst at the same time offering them a number of ways to circumvent doubt and boost morale. It's never preachy or didactic either. In fact, the narrative style is so right-here right-now, you'd swear Turia is in the same room with you, or more likely, companionably alongside you on a beach somewhere, gazing out over the waves. This makes the whole experience real enough to not only admire but also makes you sit up and realise, wait a minute, I can be stronger too. I can be better. I am special. I will make it.
Unlike some autobiographies that focus by their very nature on the narrator's take on events, here we are given the unique privilege of hearing several 'other sides of the story' thanks to excerpts from those closest to her: her amazing husband, her parents, her closest best buddies and her parents in-law. This amalgamation of viewpoints provides additional information and an intimacy that promotes empathy and understanding.
And in spite of a smattering of informational links and recommendations (which really only serve the greater societal good anyway), this book still wallops a massive amount of positive takeaways on readers' 'how to cope' plates. Pitt is always paying it forward. Her attitude is tough, perhaps she is toughest on herself, but it is also refreshingly real and sharp enough as a wake up call to remind us all that life is short and sometimes brutal. But ultimately, it's up to you which channel of your life's show you are going to watch and be part of.
I loved the emotional ride Pitt takes us on. I love the vitality of her convictions and her selfless sharing of them. If only we could all let our masks slip away and share more of ourselves like this, think what an encompassing world this would be.
Title: Unmasked Young Adult Edition
Author: Turia Pitt
Publisher: Random House Children’s Australian, $17.99
Publication Date: April 2018
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Non Fiction / Autobiography
Buy the Book: Booktopia, QBD Books