What’s it all about?:
Sometimes however much you love someone, you can’t understand them.
Ian used to think that his life had been disappointingly easy, compared to the pioneers. He had a happy marriage, four children, a satisfactory job and, for just over a year, he has served the church in his role as Bishop of the local congregation, an enormous responsibility.
And then Issy died.
Now his wife, Claire, won’t get out of their dead daughter’s bottom bunk and she won’t speak. Claire doesn’t want a blessing or a sympathy card and she’s got nothing to say to the Lord. She just wants to be left alone to be sad.
Ian doesn’t know what to do to make things better. Zippy and Alma are trying to combine living with grieving and being Mormons with being teenagers. Only seven-year-old Jacob has a plan. He knows that his faith is bigger than a mustard seed; it’s at least as big as a toffee bonbon, maybe bigger. It’s clear that if he wants Issy back, it’s up to him to perform a resurrection miracle.
Incredibly moving, unexpectedly funny and so sharply observed it will make you feel as if you could pick the woodchip off the bedroom wall, A Song for Issy Bradley is about doubt and faith. But most of all it’s about a family trying to work out how to carry on when their world has been blown apart.
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions of the Mormon faith before reading this book? Did they change at all?
BETH: I didn’t really. I haven’t read much about the Mormon faith apart from one Sherlock Holmes story and am sadly lacking in general knowledge about it. It was nice to read a contemporary novel that explored being a Mormon in today’s world especially in their interactions with non-believers and the children of the family especially one of the older adolescents Al, who is beginning to question his faith. Compared with Zippy who desperately wants to be a “good” Mormon and the youngest child Jacob who believes he can resurrect his sister it was interesting to see how the faith manifested and changed throughout the family.
BETH: Did you have any expectations going into this novel and were they met?
CHRISSI: I didn’t have any expectations at all. To be honest, I went into this novel without knowing what it was about. I just picked it up and started to read it. It was only when there was a strong religious tone to the novel that I went and looked up the synopsis to see what I was letting myself in for. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book even though it frustrated me greatly at many points.
CHRISSI: Examine the treatment of grief in the novel. How is it expressed through the different members of the family?
BETH: When I first started this book it had lots of lovely jokes in it which really amused me and I thought – “Okay, so it’s going to be a funny-sad novel, great!” And then Issy dies. And it’s horrible. Each member of the family deals with their heart break in their own ways – Ian tries to assimilate all of the Mormon teachings and tries to get on with things, Al seems to be repressing a lot of his emotions, Zippy leans on her faith to get her through and sweet little Jacob doesn’t seem to realise that Issy really isn’t coming back (despite his best attempts!). Poor Claire is the worse affected, it is a struggle for her to put one foot in front of another and it was quite emotional to read about how she became a virtual recluse as the result of the loss of her daughter.
BETH: Who was your favourite character and why?
CHRISSI: My favourite character was the ever so sweet Jacob. I loved reading about him as he struggled to come to terms with the loss of his sister. He really needed his mum and she wasn’t able to be there for him as she drowned in her own grief. I wanted to reach into the book and give him a cuddle. When he was trying to ‘resurrect’ his sister it absolutely broke my heart. I just thought he was an incredibly lovable character.
CHRISSI: What did you think of Ian as a character?
BETH: Oh my goodness, Ian annoyed the hell out of me. I felt terrible for him as he tried to deal with his loss the best way he thought he could, by carrying on but his whole reaction to his wife’s unbearable pain seemed cold at times (although we see his real emotions towards the end). He was so devoted to his religion that it was hard for him to take on any other point of view and in some points, it almost felt like he was brain washed, married to his religion rather than to his wife, Claire.
BETH: The relationship between Claire and Ian is a key part of the novel. What do you think about the dynamics of their marriage?
CHRISSI: This is an interesting question. I really questioned Claire and Ian’s relationship. I felt like Ian was definitely the dominant partner. Claire had taken on being Mormon to be with Ian even though it completely changed her life, so she must have really loved him. I found his dedication to his religion incredibly intense and at times, it felt like his faith was more important to him than his family. His lack of warmth for his wife’s awful experience with grief was frustrating. I felt like he was trying to hide her grief away from members of the church as if it was something to be ashamed of. Ooh, he frustrated me. I’m fine with people having religious beliefs, but it certainly seemed like Ian’s religion was more important to him. I wanted him to see how much his family needed him not his faith. I think be begins to redeem himself towards the end, but it was too little too late for me!
CHRISSI: Without spoilers, were you satisfied with the ending of this novel?
BETH: Unfortunately, I wasn’t. It was such a shame as I was completely engrossed in the story right up until the end and without giving anything away, it felt slightly abrupt and that things were left a bit unfinished. Saying this though, we do see a slight glimmer of hope for the future so I managed to put my tissues away!
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: Yes! I thought it was an enjoyable read, sad but funny in parts. I thought the writing style was good too!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):