“I found Carys Bray’s depiction of the Mormon faith mesmerising”
Like Judy, I found Carys Bray’s depiction of the Mormon faith mesmerising. Although these communities live among us in the UK, their way of life; their relationships with each other; above all, their faith – these factors make them seem so very different to the rest of us.
What makes this book especially authentic is that Bray was herself raised as a Mormon in Southport. She left the church in her early 30s. So we see these characters very much through the eyes of the insider.
This marvellous novel is really about faith. Claire becomes increasingly disillusioned with Mormonism when she sees how Ian deals with Issy’s death. So strongly does he believe that they will all be re-united one day in the afterlife, that he initially refuses to mourn. Everything is God’s will; therefore nothing can be questioned.
Bray draws the children beautifully; little Jacob with his touching belief that if he can bring a dead bird back to life, he can resurrect his sister. Teenagers Zippy, falling in forbidden adolescent love, and Al, who just wants to be a normal kid and play football.
A Song For Issy Bradley is moving, warm, and deep. It is also surprisingly funny; Claire’s observations of her husband’s flock are sharply humorous and wry. It’s a terrific book.
“Money is tight and Claire, mother of four, scrimps and does the best she can”
Outwardly, the Bradleys are a fairly run-of-the-mill family, though rather poorer than many. Money is tight and Claire, mother of four, scrimps and does the best she can. She shops at ASDA and PRIMARK, and they eat a lot of chicken nuggets.
But inwardly, the Bradleys are very different from most of us, because they are Mormons, a Latter-Day Saints family living in Southport. To those of us who now little about Mormonism, this comes as a slight shock. I associate Mormons with Utah in the US. Obviously I knew they must have communities here in the UK – but Southport? I’m not sure why, but this very fact intrigued me immediately when I started the book.
My interest was justified – this is a beautiful novel, tender, moving and profound. Claire only joined the Mormon faith when she married Ian, who’s not only devout, but a senior member of the church – a Bishop, no less. He is a profoundly serious man; Claire calls him ‘Superman in a suit’. He takes his religious duties to his community very seriously; if any of his ‘parishioners’ needs him, he’ll be there like a shot, even if that means leaving his family alone on important occasions such as the children’s birthdays.
And it’s on seven-year-old Jacob’s birthday that tragedy strikes. Ian has left Claire to arrange Jacob’s party all by herself – despite promising to be there to help – because a difficult member of his flock demands his presence. Fraught and tired, Claire is so busy with the party that she doesn’t notice that her youngest child, four-year-old Issy, is seriously ill.
Issy dies; Claire falls to pieces, and Ian’s staunch faith is sorely tested.
Here are a selection of the reviews for A Song For Issy Bradley
“A skilful and empathetic dramatisation. The fact that it deals with such distressing subject matter without falling prey to sentimentality makes it all the more admirable.”
“I couldn’t leave it alone. Bray writes with such clarity, intelligence and authenticity that it feels as if an old friend is telling you the story, that the characters are people you know.”
“Bray demonstrates the comforts of faith – the magic, hope and imagination – as well as its restrictions. This is an impressive debut from a compassionate, wise and original new voice.”
“An intensely powerful, even-handed look at death and the uncertain consolations of faith.”
The Sunday Times