Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Fortunate Brother

The Fortunate Brother / Donna Morrissey
Toronto: Penguin Canada, c2016.
260 p.

This is the third in a trilogy about the Now family -- but I haven't read the first two. I didn't realize at first that this was a part three; there is nothing that requires you to have read the first two (Sylvanus Now & What They Wanted) This works perfectly as a standalone read.

And what a read it was! The Now family is in a state. Elder brother Chris died suddenly in an accident far away at his job in the Alberta oilsands. His sister Sylvie was there and feels a lot of guilt about it, though it wasn't in any way her fault. Youngest brother Kyle is the centre of the book, as his confused emotions and understandings form the viewpoint of this tale. 

He is still living at home with his parents, Sylvanus (who has turned to drink to face his grief) and stoic mother Addie, who discovers that she has breast cancer but only announces it immediately before going for treatment. Into this fraught family comes another problem: an abused woman has turned to Addie, and soon after, her violent husband is found murdered basically at their door, well, at the end of their dock anyhow.

Morrissey ties together the mystery itself -- a classic, replete with police, red herrings, suspects right in the Now family, and hidden motives among other locals -- with the literary focus on character development and fine writing. Her Newfoundland is clearly evoked in speech patterns and expressions, while not being too heavily laded with dialect; you simply get the feel for these characters through the descriptions of both people and settings.  

While there are a lot of grim issues covered in the book, they're approached with an unsentimental eye. There is an honesty to the reactions of all the Nows to the loss of their son and brother, and a realism in their suffering. The story holds unexpected revelations, fear, and grief, but also a lightness, an eye for humour and/or irony as well. The conclusion really gathers the threads together and leaves the reader satisfied with the plot resolution, but also feeling hopeful for this family's future, with the sense that they've weathered this storm together. 

This was a quick read, one that kept me flipping pages to see what was going to happen, while also engaging my sympathies for the characters. I haven't read many of Morrissey's books so far, but this one was a very good one to encounter, one which I really enjoyed. Recommended. 


  1. I heard Donna Morriasey read from this lastc month as part oif her launch tour, She said that her publishers didn't want her to call these books a trilogy although that was what she thought they were. They DO stand alone though

    I've read the first Sylvanus Now but have yet to read the second before I start The Fortunate Brother which, of course, I bought that evening. (-:

    1. I havent' read the first two but will have to go back to them now. I really liked this one!

  2. I remember loving Kit's Law and Downhill Chance, gobbling them up just as you've described doing with this one!

    1. Good to know! At least I have many of her books to encounter for the first time now :)


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