A Year of Orenda – In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

Day four of Michael J Malone week and Mandie is sharing her thoughts on In The Absence Of Miracles, a book I don’t mind admitting took me quite by surprise. Emotional, and hard hitting, it is another example of how powerful Michael J Malone’s writing can be. You can read my thoughts here, but do read on to find out more about the book and see if Mandie agreed with me.

Source: Amazon

About the Book

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

Mandie’s Thoughts

I am going to start this review by saying wow as that is probably the most coherent thing I could say after I had finished it. Having slowly caught up with reading Michael J Malone’s books I have definitely come to expect something that would put me through a bit of an emotional wringer and In the Absence of Miracles is no exception to this.

John Docherty has come to the realisation that he will have to sell the family home to pay for his mother’s care following a stroke. It is whilst he starts to clear things in the attic that he comes across a photograph of someone he believes is him with a small child. He is confused as he doesn’t remember a baby and he is sure that it is not his younger brother. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery he starts digging into his family’s past, bringing both welcome surprises but also a whole heap of pain that he had managed to suppress over the years. The relationship between John and his brother Chris goes between mickey taking to arguments at the drop of a hat and John harbours resentment against his younger brother for leaving him to deal with his mother’s illness. They finally seem to bond over the common goal of finding out what happened to the boy in the photograph. 

This is at times a harrowing story as the past of John and his family is slowly brought to light. The more you learn about the characters past, the more you can understand their behaviour and attitude in the present and what has shaped the adults they have become. Despite the subject matter, it is dealt with in such a way that none of it is sensational or there just for the sake of it but it leaves you with a sense that over time and with most of his family beside him that John will learn to heal and above all forgive himself.

Michael J Malone has certainly not shied away from tackling a topic that is often swept under the carpet, whilst at the same time looking at it from a slightly different angle, showing howsomething can tear a family apart, force secrets and self-blame. His style of writing has you turning page after page as you get more invested in the characters he has created and proves that not all books need to have in your face action to hold a readers interest.

About the Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

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