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Author draws on personal tragedy

SUSAN Berg is a survivor.


Author Susan Berg has written a book about a tragedy that claimed her family 30 years ago.

But it has taken the former Frankston resident almost 30 years to tell her story.

Ms Berg said friends often told her to write about the boating accident that claimed the lives of her parents and brother when she was just 15 years old.

“I would just tell them that I’m not a writer,” she said.

“It wasn’t until I packed up my tent and hopped on my motorbike and rode to Byron Bay for a solo holiday that I really considered doing it.

“My mother always used to tell me that I could do anything I wanted to and by the time I got back to Melbourne I had decided to do it.”

After discussing her plan with her son William, Ms Berg sold her Frankston house and spent a year in Indonesia and Thailand writing The Girl Who Lived.

“It was difficult to get back into that headspace and write about what happened that night, but it was also cathartic,” she said.

The night in question was Sunday, October 27, 1985.

Ms Berg and her father, Dr Edwin Berg, mother, Valerie and 16-year-old brother William had taken the family boat out on to Western Port Bay for only the second time.

“The first time we took it out it broke down and the second time it sank,” Ms Berg said.

The teenager managed to survive the incident by swimming about 3.5km to French Island in the dark.

“My brother and I were both strong swimmers but William stayed back to help my dad and I think that’s why he didn’t make it,” she said.

Ms Berg’s story has already struck a chord with readers, making Readings Bookstore’s Top 10 Best Selling Books of the Week on the week of its launch last month.

It has also given her a new direction with the former executive assistant now considering a different career path.

“I’d love to do something that helps others heal,” she said.

“Ideally, I’d like to set up a retreat, a place where people could go to rest and regroup but I won’t be able to afford to do that for a while.”

The Girl Who Lived is available at Farrell’s Bookshop, 143 Main St, Mornington and Teachers Resource, 103 High St, Hastings.

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