Monday, August 11, 2014

A Song for Issy Bradley: A Novel

Title:  A Song for Issy Bradley: A Novel
Author:  Carys Bray
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2014. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0553390880 / 978-0553390889

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Anyone can be brave for five minutes or an hour or two. The bravery no one talks about is the hardest bravery of all. When you get up in the morning even though you'd rather be dead, that's brave. When you build instead of breaking downs. No one gives you a slap on the back for it, no one tells you your salvation's assured, but it's brave."

Issy Bradley is the youngest of the Bradley children. She succumbs to a sudden, virulent illness and dies. This book is the story of those left behind - her father Ian, her mother Claire, her sister Zippy, and her brothers, Alma and Jacob. At the heart of this book is the idea of faith and the role it plays in moving on after a devastating, unexplainable loss such as the death of a child.

Ian Bradley is raised in a home driven by faith and serves as a Bishop in his Church. His faith is central to all he does and who he is. He is devastated by the loss of his child, but continues to believe. "One day we'll understand why bad things happen and it'll make sense."

Claire joined the Church upon her marriage to Ian. She has doubts and cannot believe that any rationale could explain this catastrophic event in their lives. "Faith in the face of mountainous evidence to the contrary has always felt like a trick or a trap:  if she convinces herself to believe, if she manufactures assurance and pus all of her eggs in faith's basket, how much worse off will she be if it breaks?"

Zippy is a teenager. She believes in the tenets she has been taught and in the rules of right and wrong. Yet, she struggles with temptations that lie beyond those rules, and with friends who push the boundaries further.

Alma wants to be a young man, playing football and hanging out with his friends, without the restrictions that the Church places on him. In his actions, he follows the principles of honesty and truthfulness but struggles with the strict religious rituals.

Jacob is a little boy. He believes in miracles with the innocence of a young child.

The Bradley family follows the Mormon faith, reflecting the author's own background. Carys Bray was raised in a strict Mormon family, but she left the faith in her early thirties. I know very little about faith, its teachings, or its rules. So, I don't know the accuracy with which the book reflects it.

However, as far as the story is concerned, it does not make a difference to me. The rituals and rules presented may accurately or inaccurately reflect the Mormon faith, but the emotions and the journey of faith transcends any given religion. That is where the story lies.

How do you deal with such a life altering event? What do you do when "the house is full of sadness. It's packed into crevice and corner like snow." Do you continue to hold onto belief? Do you turn away in sadness and look to blame? Do you hope for a miracle?

This book does a beautiful job of exploring those emotions through the perspectives of the Bradley family. What I also really like is that the book does not imply a judgement as to what the right answer is or even if there is a right answer in the author's mind. The ending itself is open to interpretation for there is no one answer. It is an answer that each person must discover for themselves. The book poses the question, and documents different paths. For the questions it poses, I see this as a great book for book clubs.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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