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.
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.
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.
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.
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.