Book Review: Heroes Next Door by Samuel Johnson and Hilde Hinton

Written By Robyn Smith

They walk amongst us. We pass them on the streets every day. The unsung heroes in the shadows, quietly making other people’s lives better when adversity strikes. Here, we shine the light on these courageous Australians.’ (Johnson 2020)

It started with Max, the eighty-five-year-old emu farmer. From there, it snowballed into a creation with a life of its own—as good ideas often do. That led to this book and the amazing stories of everyday Aussies doing their bit to make their communities a little bit (and sometimes a lot) better.

In 2013, Aussie actor Samuel Johnson decided that riding around Australia on a unicycle was as good a plan as any to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. With his sister Connie, they created the charity Love Your Sister. As they shared their experience of Connie’s battle with terminal cancer, thousands of people from around the world came together via the power of social media to share their experiences as well. The LYS (Love Your Sister) Village, as the campaign came to be known, embraced Samuel’s mission. In 2019, they were able to reach the magical goal of $10 million for cancer research. Unfortunately, Connie passed away before she could see this extraordinary goal accomplished.

The book, however, was Hilde’s doing. The big sister to Samuel and Connie, Hilde was convinced to join Samuel and the fundraising team for a portion of their trip around Australia in 2019. She’d always been an integral part behind the scenes, but this time Hilde was out on the road with Samuel and the crew. That’s when she met Max and learnt about the ways he had helped in his community in his own quiet way. After meeting Max, Hilde soon got chatting with another quiet achiever and then spoke with another. After chatting with Hilde, Samuel was on the lookout for the quiet, unassuming heroes too. Hilde would write down these stories and read them out to the crew each night. Due to the strong impact the stories had on those who heard them, a decision was made to publish some of them in a book.

Heroes Next Door is a collection of forty of these tales—and you’ll want to have the tissues ready. Retold by both Samuel and Hilde, they do a beautiful job of recapturing the stories in honest and humorous ways, with the occasional explicit language sprinkled throughout to make a strong point. Their tales are short yet full of all the feels. It’s not the tragedy that gets you—it’s the overcoming of adversity and the community spirit that really tugs at your heart. They don’t focus on loss, but rather the strength that tragedy can give you to make a difference to those around you, and help ease the pain that you know others are feeling.

With all the challenges we have faced in 2020, Samuel and Hilde couldn’t have released this book at a better time. Heroes Next Door reminds us that as bad as things are, there is always a way we can step up during adversity and be the change for good we all so desperately want to see. And if you take a good look, you’ll probably start to see the heroes next door in your own community. But remember, they don’t wear capes.

Heroes Next Door is available now in hard copy from most reading retailers. E-book and audiobook are available on Apple and Google Play stores.

Johnson, S & Hilton, H 2020, Heroes Next Door, 1st edn, Hachette Australia, Sydney NSW.

Robyn has recently graduated from Deakin University with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Creative Writing. She has thoroughly enjoyed her experience with the Deakin WORDLY crew over the last four years and has had articles published in the Order, Taboo, and Tension editions of their print magazine. Predominantly a fantasy fiction writer, Robyn enjoys creating magical worlds and bringing them to life through her writing.

Robyn’s work has appeared in the Tension and Order issues of WORDLY Magazine.

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