The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
The story of a Mormon couple living in Meseyside failing to cope with the death of one of their children, A Song For Issy Bradley is a deeply moving portrait of a family in rapid disintegration which also manages to be very funny.
Claire was a convert to Mormonism. She joined because she fell in love with Ian, now Bishop Bradley. Her religion has always been more of an accommodation than anything else and she has tended to ignore those parts of the doctrine that she inwardly baulked it. Now, the death of her daughter Issy has pulled the rug away from beneath her comfortable self-deception. Everything about the religious community in which she has embedded herself, seems irksome and pointless.
I didn't know anything about Mormonism but I do now and, as with all religions, what appears perfectly normal to the initiate seems very weird indeed to the outsider. Carys Bray, who grew up in a Mormon family, brilliantly manipulates the disjuncture between the interior space of a deeply religious family and the uncomprehendingly secular wider world, much of which is seen through the eyes of the dead girl's siblings who have been brought up on tales of miracles and divine intervention but are now confronted with the mundane reality of bereavement.
This is one of those novels that opens a window into a hidden world and, in doing so, simultaneously highlights the strangeness and the sameness of all human behaviour. Sometimes harrowing, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, this is a wonderful read.