Almost Perfect is Kelly Denley’s inspirational story of how she took her super-sized family on an Australia-wide journey to bring them closer together, so that they were better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations that the world was throwing at them.
A full-time wife and mother since the age of 17, by 31 Kelly Denley has lost sight of who she truly is. Postnatal depression takes its toll on Kelly, her father is given just a year to live, her husband is retrenched, one daughter is hospitalised and another on antidepressants and, in a final frightening development, her eldest boy, who suffers from Asperger’s, threatens suicide. Distraught, Kelly blames herself and knows that everything has to change. Concerned about her children’s school problems and behaviour, Kelly takes dramatic action, putting her university dream on hold so the family can travel Australia for a year in the hope that the experience will draw them closer together.
How Kelly tackles both the joy and pain that lie in wait, from discovering the beauty in nature she’d always been too busy to see and mastering the art of home-schooling in a tent, to nearly drowning in a flooded river and more heartache over her children, makes Almost Perfect an inspiring, moving, yet often hilarious rollercoaster ride of a memoir.
Denley not only conquered year 11 and 12 as a mature age student* so that she could get into university, but she did it with eight kids (two of whom had disabilities). After facing that challenge, and then having to face seeing her kids struggle at school when people couldn’t handle their differences, Denley set her sights higher. To save her family from falling apart, she took them on a year long camping trip around the gorgeous sights and sounds of Australia. Eight kids, two cars, one trailer. Home schooling, family arguments, financial crisis. It was by no means an easy year for the Denley’s, but the rewards that they reaped made it more than worth it.
Denley tells her story without pretension. In every page, her love for her family is clear. The reader empathises with her battle with her weight, and cheers as she finally sheds her insulation. You can’t help but die a little inside reading about the struggle of her two eldest boys, suffering from Aspergers – the eldest of whom doesn’t even make it on their trip.
While the writing wasn’t always smooth or polished, it was the story that captivated me. Reading about the challenges that this family overcame is strengthening. Without the trip, who knows where the Denley’s would be. With it, they became a tight-knit family unit, dragging their feet to return to their old ‘normality’. Overcoming so many obstacles, the Denley story is an inspiration to us all; families should come before the rat race. Taking time out to get to know and connect with the most important people in one’s life is a paramount goal. The Denley family should be congratulated on their monumental achievements.
This book was hard to rate in a way. Denley wasn’t a polished writer as such, but her story was compelling. It was the story of an underdog, fighting for her family, and herself, in a world that doesn’t always want to accept the outsider. It was a story of triumph.
This book is a must read for anyone who wants to have a little hope, or to any mother who is looking for a way to create the kind of family that every parent dreams about; close, happy and memorable (you can find it here). I wonder, after this huge step, where the Denley’s could go from here…