A Song for Issy Bradley
by Carys Bray
This is a book about grief and loss. It is also a book about faith. Claire and Ian Bradley, together with their four children, are part of a small Mormon community. When one of the children dies unexpectedly, each family member deals with grief and loss in their own way, at the same time balancing their feelings with their faith. The author herself was brought up in the Mormon faith and writes from personal experience.
This is not a book that is preaching the Mormon faith, in fact as a non-Mormon, I did find it difficult to understand some of the ideas, but it did not stop me from fully immersing myself in the book.
Ian is the Bishop and as such is at the beck and call of his congregation, even missing his son’s birthday party because he is obedient to his faith. Claire, his wife, converted to the faith when she met Ian and tries to be the good wife that all Mormon women aspire to be. Zippy, their 16 year old daughter, is in love and struggles with Mormon values, wanting to be kissed but knowing that it is a sin. 13 year old Alma wants to play football for Liverpool and questions the doctrine. He finds it difficult to be a Mormon in a predominantly non-Mormon environment. Jacob, who is 7, believes every story that he is told in church; he believes in miracles. Issy, at 4 years of age, is the loved little sister, even though Alma does not always show his love.
When Issy dies at the beginning of the book, we are taken on each character’s emotional journey as they deal with guilt, grief, and regret; as they try to make sense of her death. In the Mormon faith, the belief is that everyone is re-united after death, but as Jacob says, that is a long time to wait.
We see each character’s point of view and the topic is sensitively handled. This is no over the top novel full of superfluous details and over-dramatic out-pourings. At its heart this is a book about families and love.