‘The Fortunate Brother’ by Donna Morrissey and ‘The Couple Next Door’ by Shari Lapena

6744441The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey

Donna Morrissey is a well-known and accomplished author from Newfoundland (who now lives in Nova Scotia), and I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my first time reading one of her books. However, I am happy to say that I couldn’t have been more pleased with my experience, and I will definitely be reading more of her books.

The Fortunate Brother  revolves around a murder mystery, but is character-driven with a strong sense of place. Although it is the third in a series of books about the Now family, it is also a strong book on its own. It takes us back to a small outpost in Newfoundland where Kyle and his family are grieving the loss of a brother, facing illness, and struggling with alcohol and themselves. The community is filled with an interesting mix of characters that bring the story to life; siblings, cousins, friends, and neighbours.

There were times when I was reading that I wondered how anything good could come of all that was happening, but by the time I was done, a sense of hope, and the strength of family and community won out.

The best way to get a good sense of this book is by reading some of the passages.

Grief and being stuck:

The same. Always the same. Least the river kept on flowing, no matter how much crap it carried. Always shifting bedrock and cutting through ice and changing its song.  Felt like he’d been circling the same eddy for so long now that he was outside the passing of time. Sometimes he was surprised to look up into a summer’s sky and see instead the trees shaking their yellowed leaves or snowflakes falling all too soon and soaking his lashes. Felt like the one long day for three years now. The one long dull day, caught on a cloud of grief hovering over his house.

She gave a dismissive shrug. But she was choking with words, he could tell. Just like Sylvie. Choking with words. Wanting to talk about things. Things about Chris and the accident. Things about him, Kyle. Things about themselves. And he never knew what things they wanted to tell him and have him tell them and he bloody didn’t care about them things. Just leave it alone, leave it the bloody hell alone. Christ, he was working on getting things out of his head, not shoving more in.

Loneliness:

What awful loneliness is that, killing the ones you love? They’re the disheartened. And the abandoned. In the end, their loneliness is the only thing they’re loyal to.

Community:

One thing about the outports. You never suffered alone. Everybody was your brother or aunt or cousin or neighbour and they knew your dead like they knew their own.

Family:

Adelaide Now was no come-by-chance. She took fate by the throat like an unruly dog and bade it do her bidding. She was her fate. And they stood to learn from her, he and his father. Two arseholes walking like stiffs, scared of farting for fear of crapping their pants.

Mother says he thinks he’s God, responsible for everything that happens.

Bonus: Reading this book may result in the acquisition of some colourful new words and phrases. You could fit right in the next time you’re in Newfoundland.

Check out this enthusiastic and thorough review at Bibliobroads.

 

28815474The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Whereas The Fortunate Brother‘s strength is its characterization, the strength of The Couple Next Door is its relentless plot.

I don’t read a lot of thrillers, so I don’t feel very qualified to recommend one to you, but I’m not alone in my enjoyment of this one. Check out these reviews of others who have enjoyed the book: Eva, Susan, Alice. (If I’ve missed you, let me know!)

I like that the book starts with a paragraph that involves ‘pumping and dumping’ tainted breast milk. But then when I read that the crime involved the baby (maybe this is common in thrillers?), I panicked. I worried that writing or reading about such a horrible thing might conjure it up somehow. After I got over that, I settled in and enjoyed the twists and turns and the exercise of trying to figure out who did it (and how and why).

Mixture of feelings over the course of the book: disgust, fear, anger, surprise, shock, disbelief, and pity. One of the characters was stupid, stupid, stupid. I still can’t believe how stupid. Is it even realistic that s/he was so stupid? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. And, the end. I’m still not sure how I feel about the end. Pity. A lot of pity.

How well do we really know our neighbours, our spouses, or even ourselves? These are the big questions that play out in the book; questions that are fascinating at any time, in any book.

… if there’s anything Rasbach has learned in his years on the job, it is that people are capable of almost anything.

******************************************************

*Both The Fortunate Brother and The Couple Next Door were sent to me by Random House Canada for review. The quotations above are from uncorrected proofs.

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29 thoughts on “‘The Fortunate Brother’ by Donna Morrissey and ‘The Couple Next Door’ by Shari Lapena

  1. AYearOfBooksBlog says:

    Great reviews! Another book to add to my TBR pile!! I have to say that i was not keen on the end of The Couple Next Door and am waiting for someone to finish it so that I can discuss it openly!

    • Naomi says:

      I was so impressed with the writing. i don’t know why, but I was under the impression that her books were more mystery genre, but this is definitely literary.

  2. The Paperback Princess says:

    I’m so glad that you liked The Couple Next Door! When I first read what the crime was going to be, it was less that I was afraid it would show up in real life (I have that will illness in books) but more that I’ve read it before. Thankfully this was such a clever take on the story.
    I really liked The Fortunate Brother! I wasn’t sure about it at first but you’re right about it being character driven with a real sense of place. I’m going to go back and see about picking up some phrases for whenever I get the chance to visit Newfoundland!

  3. Bibliobroads Kelly Beers says:

    Oh beloved Naomi!! Your review!! I now ‘must’ make time for ‘The Couple Next Door.’ (I guess sleeping doesn’t really matter;) ) Many thanks as always for your wisdom & passion, Kelly

  4. cleopatralovesbooks says:

    I have a copy of The Couple Next Door but have held of reading it as I knew from the synopsis I’d be at best frustrated by the stupid parents – I’m going to have to bite the bullet now! I do like the sound of the Donna Bullet, character driven murder mysteries are always a big hit with me!! Oh the poor TBR 🙂

  5. buriedinprint says:

    Isn’t it nice, when you wait to read a well-known author, and you enjoy the work even more than you expected?! I read her first two, and absolutely loved Kit’s Law, but I’ve lost track of her since. I remember them, too, being character-driven for sure, with NFL feeling like a character too; it sounds like that hasn’t changed a bit. Thanks for encouraging me to nudge her latest up the proverbial TBR stacks!

    • Naomi says:

      Oh, I’m so glad to hear her others will be more of the same goodness. I have had Kit’s Law forever – time to dig it out! (You started at the beginning and I started at the end – now we can meet in the middle!)

  6. DoingDewey says:

    I’ve been interested in The Couple Next Door, but haven’t been in the mood for a thriller yet to pick it up. I’m not sure I want to knowing that one of the characters is almost unbelievably dumb. That’s definitely a pet peeve of mine.

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