Part autobiography, part holistic health guide, Canberra-based author Shelley Hunter’s new book Face of Faith is a raw, deeply personal expression of a lifetime of trauma and tragedy, lined with lessons of resilience, survival, and optimism from a woman who refuses to be defeated.
Born into existing dysfunction and trauma, at just 10 months old Shelley was abandoned by her mum and forced to navigate neglectful and abusive placements in an orphanage, her paternal grandparents’ home and a bikie lifestyle with her dad.
Shelley started her journey to financial independence at just age 11, working as her dad’s farmhand.
Forced to mature beyond her years, she withstood setbacks of self-medication, addiction, and a co-dependent partnership with a “good man with behavioural problems” before crossing the country in search of her mum at age 14.
She found her family in WA, but not her fairytale ending.
Instead, she was further used and manipulated by those from whom she sought love and approval.
But Face of Faith is far from a pity party and throughout the book, Shelley is a woman consistently reaching beyond the darkness in search of light and finding some comfort in music, horses, Buddhism and Shamanism.
With strength and resilience, she “got it together”, moved back to Victoria, found a partner, and became a mum.
Her life remained far from perfect but her determination to be a good mum and provide for her family led Shelley back to school.
To obtain her qualification in community support work, she walked four hours a day from her rural property into town while pushing her newborn in a pram.
Her determination saw her find work supporting others through trauma and she added Reiki to her list of healing capabilities.
Within a couple of years, Shelley’s family had grown in size, but her relationship ended, and she experienced the grief of a tragic loss.
Shelley and her new partner took their “Brady Bunch” on a bus trip around Australia.
As they travelled, she home schooled her kids, incorporating holistic practices of morning gratitude rituals, relaxation practices, and exercise routines.
The adventure ended abruptly when Shelley was involved in a car accident – an accident that ignited her biggest battle yet.
To overcome her injuries, Shelley leant in and fought.
She outlived a two-year survival prognosis from an “untreatable” bone infection in her facial plates and recovered from six facial reconstructive surgeries and associated mental scars of being unrecognisable to her four-year-old daughter.
Despite a traumatic brain injury, Shelley walked again and when her vulnerable body developed cervical cancer, she defeated that, too.
She continued to add pathways to healing with yoga, the power of positive thinking, and Chinese medicine.
She drank four litres of wheatgrass a day and took “100 black pills” every week.
From Chinese medicine, she learnt to overcome the mindset of pain and truly heal – mentally, physically and emotionally.
Shelley’s story bottomed out with a life-threatening haemorrhage and blood transfusion.
She decided this was the moment to turn things around and, as she recovered, she began accessing and addressing her behavioural patterns and co-dependent relationships.
It took Shelley seven years to write her story.
Face of Faith is more than a story of Shelley’s survival, it is a pathway to mindfulness,embracing life and being present.
It asks the reader a series of questions and shows you how to evaluate your health, relationships, and happiness, with therapeutic techniques, goal setting and accountability.
The author’s warmth and compassion jumps off the page and Shelley makes it clear that she went through hell and has come back stronger – and she will help you do it, too.