"I was made in Coffee Bay. Right there on the beach, in the sand," writes Hackney in the opening lines of this engrossing book.
Readers are thus drawn in immediately by this no-holds barred account and startling memoir, Tsk-Tsk: The Story of a Child at Large, of a thoroughly singular childhood: Suzan is adopted as a newborn in the late 1960s into what appears as a loving, and welcoming, Pietermaritzburg family.
But the child is set on a collision course, particularly with her adoptive mother, as well as society at large, from the very beginning. Suzan's relationship with her mom is fraught with drama, which veers over into a level of emotional abuse and cruelty that is shocking and disturbing.
At the age of 13, she's sent to a place of safety as a ward of the state, effectively "orphaning" her. There, she spirals out of control – fighting to survive in a world of other neglected, abandoned and abused children. She becomes a "runner", escaping at every opportunity from various places of confinement, grabbing her schooling in snatches, living on the edges of a drug and prostitution underworld, finding love wherever she can.
Suzan’s young life seems to be the stuff of movies. But writing in a voice that is often raw, often poignant, and always frank, she transforms her memories into a piece of magical literature.