Book Review: Ten Thousand Aftershocks

“The key to survival is defined as the ability to adapt to change, but if you are miserable, are you still surviving?”

Ten Thousand Aftershocks is a deep, captivating memoir of family, trauma, and surviving the 2011 Christchurch earthquake that forever changed the course of the author’s life. 

The opening chapter documents the death of Michelle’s younger sister- Meredith, who has passed away due to cancer. Meredith’s spirits have been fractured for most parts of her life, all thanks to their mother’s rage and abuse, who believed she was never worthy of her love. Capturing the complexity of forces that lead to abuse in the following chapters: Michelle writes about her sister’s lifelong traumas and how a deadly magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit hard in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2011. Survival and strength didn’t come in handy to Tom, but she collected herself with immense courage through another 10,000 aftershocks before finally relocating to the stability of Melbourne, Australia. 

Describing herself as the ‘golden child’ of the family, Tom’s own life has been devoid of steady ground and relationships. Her father has been both abusive and loving and dictated life on his own terms. Despite the flaws, Michelle adored her father for the tough anchor he was before he succumbed to the injuries in an accident. Further, falling victim to the damaging consequences (schizophrenia and ultimate suicide), she ends up losing her youngest sibling- her little brother. From five, they became a family of two, leaving them in an estranged relationship with one another.

Finishing this memoir has left me with an ache for Michelle and her family. It must not have been easy for her to re-examine the series of violence, but she’s done an overwhelming job writing about those dark shades of life. 

Highly recommend you give Ten Thousand Aftershocks a read to understand how one rebuilds and renews a life when a calamity is thrust upon so abruptly!


Michelle was selected for the ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY 2019 program and for a Varuna Memoir Masterclass in 2017. Michelle lives in Melbourne with her husband and two youngest children.

To read our interview with the author Michelle Tom, click here.

Title: Ten Thousand Aftershocks

Author: Michelle Tom

Publisher: 4th Estate

Pages: 368

List Price: 34.99$