When 4-year-old Issy dies of meningitis, her Mormon family struggles with sadness, doubt and faith.
The Bradleys—Ian, Claire, Zippy, Alma, Jacob and Issy—don’t live in Salt Lake City but rather in an English town where Ian is constantly on call as bishop to a small flock of Latter-day Saints. He misses Jacob’s seventh birthday party, leaving Claire so stretched she doesn’t notice Issy’s fever is more than a regular cold. The little girl’s death sends her family reeling; rather than bringing them closer, it fractures them, especially once Claire retreats to Issy’s bed and won’t get up. Ian believes in telling the truth at all times, but what kind of example would he be setting if people knew he couldn’t solve his own family's problems? So he begins covering for Claire when people ask about her, shocking his children. Zippy is sure of her own rectitude until she discovers the pleasure of kissing the boy she’s long wanted to marry; will he now see her as tarnished goods? Alma is a boy who’d rather be called Al, thank you very much, and he’s the requisite doubter among the children; what good is religion if it makes his father force him off the soccer team? Young Jacob believes so fervently in the power of prayer that he sets about trying to resurrect Issy, practicing first on bugs, spiders and a goldfish. Each chapter follows a different Bradley, and Bray brings her characters to complicated, messy life with her tremendous power for empathy. It’s rare to see religious faith explored so deeply in popular fiction, and though Ian’s nearly unquestioning devotion can make him seem like the villain at times, Bray does a remarkable job of illuminating each character’s hopes and fears.
An absorbing, beautifully written debut novel with surprising moments of humor.