Title: A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A mesmerizing literary debut novel of doubt, faith, and perseverance in the aftermath of a family tragedy—for fans of Me Before You, Little Bee, and Tell the Wolves I’m Home.
The Bradleys see the world as a place where miracles are possible, and where nothing is more important than family. This is their story.
It is the story of Ian Bradley—husband, father, math teacher, and Mormon bishop—and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife, Claire, her lonely wait for a sign from God, and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with tragedy.
And it is the story of their children: sixteen-year-old Zippy, experiencing the throes of first love; cynical fourteen-year-old Al, who would rather play soccer than read the Book of Mormon; and seven-year-old Jacob, whose faith is bigger than a mustard seed—probably bigger than a toffee candy, he thinks—and which he’s planning to use to mend his broken family with a miracle.
Intensely moving, unexpectedly funny, and deeply observed, A Song for Issy Bradley explores the outer reaches of doubt and faith, and of a family trying to figure out how to carry on when the innermost workings of their world have broken apart.
A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray is a beautifully rendered novel of heartbreak and hope, faith and despair, and joy and sorrow. A devastating loss takes an immeasurably toll on the Bradley family and each of them deal with the tragedy in different ways.
The Bradley family is a deeply devout Mormon family whose life appears perfect on the surface. Ian, the patriarch of the family, has an unquestioning and blind faith in the religion he has devoted his life to. A newly ordained Bishop, he routinely puts service to his religious community above his family and with a full time job as a math instructor, he spends a great deal of his time away from home. Wife Claire is responsible for all matters pertaining to the home and their children, and while she is active in the church, she questions many of the precepts of her adopted religion. Oldest daughter Zippy complies with the teachings of the church but she has her doubts about some of the old fashioned values of her faith. Oldest son Al is the most skeptical of the children and he is in the beginning stages of rebellion against the strictures imposed on him by his father and the trappings of their religion. Seven year Jacob is achingly innocent, views the world around him in black and white and his faith is as unshakeable as his father’s. Youngest daughter Issy is at the heart of the senseless tragedy that slowly begins to reveal the cracks that lurk below the family’s seemingly perfect facade.
In the aftermath of their loss, the family deals with their grief in different ways. Claire eventually checks out completely as she succumbs to a dark depression that leaves her incapable of taking care of herself, let alone her family. She is overwhelmed with guilt and incredibly angry at Ian but it is her lack of faith at the time she feels she needed it most that continues to haunt her. Ian’s faith never wavers and in the face of doubt, he always has a scripture to backup his beliefs. He is at a loss at how to deal with Claire and his fears of disappointing the church lead him to fervently deny to himself and everyone around him that anything is wrong. It is very frustrating watching him continue to make religion his top priority while his family continues its downward spiral.
The children have little emotional support from their parents and the older children are tasked with some of the day to day chores that Claire is no longer capable of completing. Ian insists on returning to their regular life immediately and the kids have no time to process their grief or their loss. Zippy continues with the religious training to prepare her for her future role as a wife but without her mother’s guidance she is burdened and confused by the actions of the young man she yearns for. Al’s disdain for the church worsens and his acts of rebellion take him down a sometimes dangerous path until he finds salvation from an unexpected source. Jacob’s faith and conviction lead to unrealistic expectations and he is forced to learn that some miracles are just not meant to be.
A Song for Issy Bradley is a realistic and compelling novel that is heartbreaking, poignant and ultimately, hopeful. The different viewpoints provide a thought-provoking look into the Mormon religion and what is expected from its members at various stages in their life. An overall moving story by Carys Bray that will touch your heart as the Bradley family finds their way back to one another after a heartrending loss.