Losing a child in an accident is every parent's worst nightmare. In Come Sunday (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), South African writer Isla Morley unpacks the stages of a mother's grief after tragic loss in a debut novel full of heartbreak and promise.
Morley sets her story against the lush backdrop of Hawaii, where Abbe Deighton is a magazine writer and exhausted mom coping with a precocious and demanding three-year-old daughter, Cleo. Her husband, Greg, a pastor who wants to grow his church, is bucking opposition from the leadership. The demands of work, church, and parenting have set their marriage somewhat adrift, so we are not surprised to learn that Abbe dabbles in an emotional affair.
We also discover, through numerous well-handled flashbacks, that while growing up in South Africa, Abbe and her older brother, Rhiaan, were verbally and emotionally abused. An apartheid poet, Rhiaan left Abbe and her mother to the rages of their father. Abbe's experiences—abandonment and abuse—with these two males colors her relationship with God, her husband, and even her daughter. When Cleo is run over by a car while in the care of good friends, Greg's and Abbe's lives are irrevocably changed. Can they reconcile their faith and marriage to what has happened?
Morley excels in steering readers through the characters' grief. As Abbe pops sleeping pills and rejects her husband and friends, her bitterness grows. She lashes out, sometimes violently, at those she holds responsible. When Greg tells Abbe that God is brokenhearted over their loss, she retorts, "Well, what use to me is a brokenhearted God?" Greg turns his grief outward, immersing himself in the life of the church.
Greg is tender, compassionate, and obtuse; Abbe is broken, ...1
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