I picked up A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray without knowing entirely what it was about. This was both good and bad. I knew that it was set in a Mormon family and a crisis of faith. Hear that? That’s all my boxes being checked. What I didn’t know was that the daughter of the family dies near the beginning of the book. I do not read books in which children die. They are just too sad for me. But I decided to soldier forth because i do love me a crisis of faith.
In the early pages of the book Issy, the Bradley’s youngest child, dies of meningitis. Yeah, that just about stopped me in my tracks to. Meningitis is every parent’s worst fear. But through her death each family member’s struggle with faith is explored. Issy’s mother and older brother were already struggling with their adherence to a strict Mormon worldview in a house ruled by a kindly and devout Bishop Bradley. It is this tension that really drives the novel. Bishop Bradley dives further into his unwavering faith, as the other two question their faith more. Added into the mix is the oldest daughter who kisses a boy (!) and Jacob a six year old who believes he can resurrect the dead.
Novels that look into the inner workings of the devout are fascinating to me. I have not an ounce of religion in me, but i sometimes wished i did. In the end Bishop Bradley’s inability and unwillingness to question the faith he has been brought up in is frustrating and borders on stupid. But seeing the other characters try to reconcile Mormonism with the tragedy that inhabits their family is fascinating. Explorations of faith like this one always keep me reading.
Who would like this book? By now you probably already have a good sense of whether or not A Song for Issy Bradley is for you. It would be a great companion piece to The Friday Gospels (review) by Jenn Ashworth, who was an early reader of this novel. It gives insight into Mormons living outside of Utah and struggling to reconcile their religion with the world around them.