The name Em Rusciano might not ring any bells for you if you’re not a fan of reality TV. Or breakfast radio. Or stand-up comedy. But within the pages of Try Hard: Tales From the Life of a Needy Overachiever, it becomes obvious that you don’t need to remember – or know – who this woman is. You’ll become engrossed and entangled into the life story (so far) of a remarkable person.
Em (Emelia) Rusciano starts her autobiography at the penultimate end. Her big moment at the Oxfam Comedy Gala. With her father by her side, who is also her musician and performing partner, Em is preparing for her dream gig. She’s arrived 6 hours early and has many, many minutes to kill.
Having brought us to the crescendo of her journey, Rusciano brings us back to the start, and then weaves her way through her eclectic jaunt into adulthood. She was a dancer, although she never managed to snaffle a lead role in the Miss Sheila Fancypants School of Dance annual concert extravaganza. She was an athletic prodigy, until an injury forced a career change. She somehow found her way into the top 12 of the second season of Australian Idol, despite being cut not once but twice from the competition. And she walked out on a high paying Breakfast Radio gig with no fall back and no idea what to do next.
Through the bends and forks in the road of Rusciano’s professional life, we are led (or pulled) into the back stories that both built her up and threatened to drag her under. There’s the loss of her beloved grandparents, her humbling battle with post-natal depression, the breakdown of her marriage and the moment when it all turns upside down with nowhere to go.
Em Rusciano doesn’t hold anything back in this autobiography that makes you wonder how she’s managed to cram so much into such a short time. Her first menstrual cycle, the night when she lost her virginity and the moments when she describes the heart-wrenching symptoms of severe depression are all laid on the table for you to bear witness too. Amongst the awkwardness and sadness, however, she still manages to find ways for her wicked sense of humour to shine in the spotlight.
This is an inspiring read and, although I had to reach for the tissues more than once (that sniffling person on your afternoon commute might well have been me) I managed to laugh far more than I cried. A testament to Rusciano’s ability to dive in head-first and tell her story, warts and all, Try Hard is a journey full of raw feelings, laugh out loud moments and a large shaking of glitter.
Reviewed by Amie Kendall
Rating out of 10: 9