Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Book Review

What happens after the worst day of your life?

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales
Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

Great question!!

I have just finished reading this thought provoking, brave, insightful and honest book by journalist, Leigh Sales. It should have been a depressing and dark read, and although it was sad in places, I found it to be full of hope and above all else, kindness.

I could relate to this book in so many ways – when I saw the the words  Blindsides, resilience and what happens after the worst day of your life, I had a flashback to the worst day of my life.

It too started as any ordinary day and ended up in tragedy.

After 40 years of living with it inside me, I finally wrote about it earlier this year – What I’ve learnt from surviving a school trip that went terribly wrong

I understood much of what Leigh wrote in this book – the post traumatic growth and post traumatic stress; the thinking that happens when you survive such a terrible accident when others have lost their lives; the nothingness in the days afterwards when nobody talks to you about it, you even start to wonder if it actually happened.

The days afterwards were indeed dark. But here I am 40 years later, older, wiser and more empathetic as a result.

Leigh’s interviews with those who went through traumatic events – like surviving a landslide that claimed 18 lives including watching his wife die in his arms; being part of a terrorist hostage situation where 2 people were killed; having your whole family killed by a gunman; and many more people who started their day in an ordinary way only to have it end in tragedy – they were honest, open and inspiring.

I like the fact that these people were months and years down the track from their worst day and Leigh showed us through her interviews, just how they had processed their stories and managed to get on with their lives.

I enjoyed the way she broke the book into sections and addressed various issues with the personal stories and thoughts of those she interviewed. She also shared her own personal stories along the way in an honest and raw way, which gave us an insight into her not so perfect life too.

The first sentence in Leigh’s Introduction sets the scene: The day that turns a life upside down usually starts like any other.

How true is this?

The day your school excursion ends in a tragic bus accident killing three people….started like any other day.

The day your brother in law dies after being diagnosed with leukemia just the day before….starts as any other.

The day your father dies….

The day your father in law dies….while you are on the other side of the world.

I’ve been blindsided many times and often wondered what I’d done to warrant these sudden life changing events.

As Leigh breaks down the statistics of such life altering events, it all becomes a bit clearer.

The blurb:

As a journalist, Leigh Sales often encounters people experiencing the worst moments of their lives in the full glare of the media. But one particular string of bad news stories – and a terrifying brush with her own mortality – sent her looking for answers about how vulnerable each of us is to a life-changing event. What are our chances of actually experiencing one? What do we fear most and why? And when the worst does happen, what comes next?

In this wise and layered book, Leigh talks intimately with people who’ve faced the unimaginable, from terrorism to natural disaster to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Expecting broken lives, she instead finds strength, hope, even humour. Leigh brilliantly condenses the cutting-edge research on the way the human brain processes fear and grief, and poses the questions we too often ignore out of awkwardness. Along the way, she offers an unguarded account of her own challenges and what she’s learned about coping with life’s unexpected blows.

Warm, candid and empathetic, this book is about what happens when ordinary people, on ordinary days, are forced to suddenly find the resilience most of us don’t know we have.

One of my favourite lines in the book is on page 225 where Wendy Liu, a Forensic Counsellor, states:

‘Somehow we need to be aware that we’re mortal, that this time is finite’ she says.  ‘It’s knowing this is all going top end, so let’s make it matter.’

If I’ve learnt nothing else from my own personal blindsides and events along the way, the need to make each day count and enjoy those around you – it’s this!

Hannah Richell says it all so well in the section (pages 203/204) about losing her husband in a surfing accident:

“I understand now that happiness isn’t some goal that we’re working towards…it’s just in the daily living of life.

It’s as if surviving the hardest thing – the greatest pain – frees me to live more courageously.  You can crumble and give up.  Or you can keep living and loving.  I chose the latter.” 

I couldn’t have said it any better myself!

Leigh ends the book with this – There’s only one lesson to take from all of this and that is to be grateful for the ordinary days and to savour every last moment of them.  They’re not so ordinary, really.  Hindsight makes them quite magical.

I’d highly recommend this book, it’s the best book I’ve read in ages by a long shot.  Have you read it or do you think you could read it?

Feel free to leave me a comment below. I always love hearing from you.

Any Ordinary Day - a book review

Deb xx

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40 Replies to “Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Book Review”

  1. Was given this book as a birthday present on Tuesday this week and finished reading today. Initial thoughts were “Why?” was I given it. Despite reminding me of the harrowing ‘ordinary days’ I’ve experienced, like all the reviews here, I found the book relevant and engaging, as if Leigh was talking to me. Being counselled by Wendy Liu or Father Steve would be so comforting. Truly important to remember to be grateful for every Ordinary Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds like an amazing book Deb – the thought that people were willing to open up and share their stories and their recovery from such awful events really speaks to the depth of the human heart and spirit. I’m so glad you found it resonated with you and it sounds like the perfect book to recommend to someone going through a tough time.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So so good to read your take. I just had to add a comment to Joanne Tracey’s about ‘controlling everything’ because as you know that was Leigh’s stance. Oh yes, this book spoke and still does to me about the ways in which I have managed or tried to what cannot be managed. I have listened to all of the audible book and now have the paper back to read.

    Thank you for joining #lifethisweek. Next week’s optional prompt is “I Want This”. Denyse

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like an inspiring read – both sobering and hopeful in many respects too. Anything that helps increase emotional intelligence is on my book reading radar. I also like Leigh Sales. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I also heard the conversation between Richard Fidler and Leigh Sales. I like to listen to audio books when I am driving. I “enjoyed” her telling this story but don’t think it would be for everyone. I got a lot out of it. I need to work on my “emotional intelligence” . It certainly gave me a lot to think about = and that is what I like!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I read this book on your recommendation last weekend Deb and loved it. Laughed, cried, cried some more … but not really with sadness (at least not all the time). Leigh’s writing is really engaging and while we’re reading about real people and their lives, she does a great job of telling stories, and stories are things that bind us. For me, the strength of this book is in the stories – they’re compelling and honest and allow us an insight not just into the lives of those she’s interviewing, but into her own journalistic practice as well. This adds another dimension to the book – because she’s so well known (at least to viewers of 7:30 here in Australia) these stories of her own questions and challenges and vulnerabilities help to add another dimension to her and I’m sure all those who read this book will watch 7:30 with a slightly different picture in their mind of who she is. It’s a great book – I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it too Sharon. It’s hard to put into words what it actually is about it but it’s just a compelling read. I agree with you, her journalistic skills are showcased along with her humanity. A very interesting book in many ways. Thanks for adding your comments and recommendation. 😊

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    1. My pleasure to share this book Donna. The stories are mainly about Australian people but their predicaments are known across the world. The messages in the book are relevant to everyone as you can see from the quotes. It was a great insightful book to read. It really resonated with me. Thanks for your comment. xx

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  7. I’ve read a few extracts & listened to Leigh talk the book in her podcast with Richard Fidler. I’m tempted, but not sure if I can – which probably means that I should. I guess it brings home the randomness of life – how bad things can happen to “good” people as easily as good things can happen to “bad” people. I’m trying to challenge myself by reading out of genre – and you can’t get more out of genre for me than reading about real life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was like that too Jo but once I heard her interviewed a number of times and the way people spoke of how the book gave them joy and peace along with the sadness, then I felt I could do it. It’s out of genre for me too, as I’m into pure escapism usually but I’m so gad I read it. Let me know if you read it. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. May I add, that is as you have already worked out, Jo what Leigh thought too. She also says at the end that it doesn’t stop her worrying or thinking about things but I guess she has more evidence to know that it can be managed (wrong word probably). I had to listen to it in little bites and then I listened to it all. Denyse x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was great to read everyone’s thoughts after these traumatic events Miriam, we often don’t the long term effects and how they’re coping after it’s over. It was hard in paces but Leigh did a fab job. If you read it, let me know what you think 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks, Deb, for your book recommendation. I appreciate your two quotes (W. Liu and H. Richell) and Leigh’s ending sentences. I’ve lost a couple of people who were close to me and the days that I received the sad news started like any other. #lifethisweek

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  9. I’m going to buy this book Deb as it does sound inspirational. Like you I’ve been blindsided many times with the deaths of my parents and brother (all in their mid 60s) to various forms of cancer, a divorce which was amicable but still difficult as children are involved and my husband’s PTSD. Watching him try to overcome the dark thoughts and experiences of over 50 years ago is not easy but he rises to the challenge daily and I’m so proud of him. It is lovely to be back connecting with you again and thanks for the book review. I’m always interested to hear what others are reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so good to have you back Sue. Yes blindsides are awful and you’ve certainly been hit by a few over the years. Dealing with PTSD is hard and Mike is lucky to have you by his side. It’s a very interesting read and I hope you enjoy it. Let me know.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sounds like a fascinating read, need to keep my eyes open for it. Interesting subject that eventually affects everyone I suppose. Another piece of evidence in the case for living every single day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is such an inspiring book Glenys. I’d love to know what you think once you’ve read it. I’ve listened to a few podcasts of her talking about it too and it was so interesting to hear her thoughts.

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