A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray hooked me with the promise of Mormons, and kept me around with a glorious tale of a family in crisis.
Issy Bradley has only just started school, and the day she dies is her brother's birthday. Her family, devout Mormons, struggles with her death in different ways. Her older sister, Zippy, begins to run the household while her oldest brother, Alma, rebels against his faith. Jacob, the closest to her in age, believes she will be resurrected just as Issy's goldfish was. Her father, Ian, remains steadfast and truth-seeking as he serves others. Her mother, Claire, is the most devastated of all. She seeks solace in her faith yet can't find it (either solace or her faith).
This book was devastatingly lovely. It was one of those stories that is not chock full of action or crazy happenings, but instead relies on the human emotions and relations that make up our every day. Watching a family that desires to be faithful and wants to believe that they will see their beloved Issy for eternity made their struggle honest and real. It didn't matter whether or not it's true, but it's the grounding of their faith and desperate clinging to it, or running away from it, that makes this family one to understand.
Bray treated her characters with such respect, and they came off as so realistically human even when they were doing things that I would consider absurd, such as the fake wedding ceremony for young teen age girls. That may have been my favorite point of the novel, with its biting remarks from one of the sister's about Zippy's mother being a convert and the young minds wrestling with sinning. I remember being similar to Zippy as a young teen, seeing life and religion in black and white, not quite understanding the Adam's of the world, who may not believe and don't want to follow down a prescribed path. It was a beautiful chapter, and the whole book was this way. Moments that push these characters into the realm of what it means to be human, to love and to support and to grieve and to be.
Hard copy for purchase below.