This is the story of Ian - husband, father, and Mormon bishop - and his unshakeable belief. It is the story of his wife Claire's lonely wait for a sign from God. And it is the story of seven-year-old Jacob. His faith is bigger than a mustard seed, probably bigger than a toffee bonbon, and he's planning to use it to mend his family with a miracle.
"A brilliant debut, compelling and profoundly moving" (Nathan Filer, author of The Shock of the Fall) "Carys Bray is a strikingly original new voice in fiction. I loved this tender, moving, funny and deeply truthful story about a family and a faith tested to breaking-point." (Helen Dunmore)
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This is well written, at times painful to read/listen to, not favourable to organised religion, and certainly not a happy book that generates smiles, or good feelings. It’s about a family struggling to carry on when it’s broken, and the end is ambiguous, leaving the final denouement for you the reader to decide. So be aware, if you hate that sort of thing this isn't for you.
This is a book about a family dealing, or completely failing to deal, with catastrophe. It is also a book about faith - both in God and in the tenets of one’s chosen religion.
The religion here is Mormonism - father Ian was born and raised in the faith, while mother Claire converted in order to marry Ian.
Claire has qualms about the religion even before the catastrophe, but it is her faith in God that’s tested afterwards. Her reaction is extreme, very, and while she had my sympathies, the fall out from her reaction impacted very negatively on her family, so my sympathy waned somewhat as time passed. Ian faith is seemingly total - he relies on the well worn-sop that “it’s God’s will”, to make everything alright, and he absolutely cannot fathom Claire’s reaction to events. Their children also struggle to fit what happens and their reaction to it into their faith, but the most poignant is little Joseph. He believes with the unquestioning totality of a young child, so when he’s told miracles happen if you pray, he believes he can achieve his own miracle. His scenes were the most painful and difficult for me to listen to - he places his trust in his parents, his church, his God, and in various ways, they all let him down.
The book presents organised religion in a poor light - probably intentionally. When one character prays for forgiveness for allowing a boy to kiss her chest (not her breasts, just her chest) she also prays for his forgiveness as it had been “her fault” for allowing him to glimpse said chest. There are many examples that had the non-believing, feminist me huffing in outrage! Suffice to say, I did not emerge from this book thinking warm fuzzy thoughts about Mormonism!
Beautifully narrated with all characters having their own “voice”, and that, combined with the desire to know what happens to this family, was enough to keep me listening when the endless gloom all got a bit much. Oh, and I didn’t like the ending!