Come Sunday, by Isla Morley – Book Review

Come Sunday, by Isla Morley

Come Sunday, by Isla MorleyAbbe Deighton is a woman on the edge.  Struggling with her role as mother to an active toddler, and wife to an embattled pastor in Hawaii (who is intent on running programs which do not endear him to church leaders), she is increasingly at the end of her rope with everyone.  When Abbe and Greg’s world is tragically altered by the accidental death of their two year old, Cleo, Abbe slides into relentless despair that leaves her marriage in the balance when her husband Greg reaches for his faith, and she questions the existence of her own.

Morley’s Come Sunday sounded fascinating from the start, but I admit that my approach to this novel, dealing with such sensitive and heartbreaking issues, was one of trepidation.  I anticipated the weight of this read, but once I began, I found Morley to be a highly skilled writer who exquisitely brings her considerable talent to bear on grim subject matter, making her characters and their situations achingly real.

This is mainly Abbe’s story and she is very human (read – flawed) and already struggling, even before the death of her daughter – feeling stagnated in her career, and unsupported and overwhelmed by  her role as wife and mother. Tragedy, however,  doesn’t happen in a vacuum and as much as Abbe wants to lean in and be devoured by her grief, parts of her life, which have always haunted her and from which she has always been running, become insistent on having their own day of reckoning. The ghost of her mother and their troubled relationship, in particular , will give Abbe no peace until she finally faces them.

I really loved this novel and the portrayal of this woman who must confront her past in order to continue living, who must find a way to deal with the unrelenting grip of the vicious sadness and anger newly informing her relationships with family, neighbors and friends. The sense of place is very strong as Morley excels in her characterization of not only people, but places as well. Hawaii is distinctive – the community and culture  so clear that I could reach out and touch it, but equally compelling is South Africa where Abbe must return to face the demons that have shaped her.  I loved the look at the issues which confront the new South Africa, the uncertainty Abbe feels to it and her upbringing, and the strong tensions shaping a place that has drastically changed yet has endured in its sameness.

Recently someone told me that they didn’t read fiction because there is too much that is “real” to read and be concerned about in the world.  I didn’t have the time, or the inclination really, to address the magnitude of what had been said, and how much I disagreed – but I have thought about that statement a lot since then.  It certainly isn’t a new approach to fiction, or a new way of perceiving fiction readers.  If I felt the need to defend myself, Come Sunday would probably be one of my answers to what was said. I can immerse myself in non-fiction (and I do enjoy it very much), recite facts and history, be appalled by the enormity of statistics and numbers, but most times it is through fiction that I am able to understand someone else’s truth.

The truth of Abbe’s story isn’t pretty or pleasant, nor does she handle herself particularly well, but I so appreciated the honesty of her character, the ferocious quality of her pain, and right or wrong, how she chose to go about its expression.  Whether I will later recognize this behavior in myself or in another, as a result of reading this novel,  I have some semblance of understanding from which I can reach out from a place of more compassion that I might normally exhibit.  I think that is a pretty neat trick.

Read More Reviews At: Booking MamaJenn’s BookshelvesMy Friend Amy – Bookworm With A View

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

Review copy.

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  1. Fabulous review! I thought this book was incredibly well done. I had so many issues with Abbe, yet I found her portrayal to be realistic and honest.

  2. I think it is a serious talent to be able to write about something so tragic and painful (and depressing) and still keep you entertained. I felt the same way about Red Hook Road, which I just finished. It is hard to convince yourself to read something so dire, and is wonderful when it pays off. As for reading only non-fiction, that is too bad. You know I love my non-fiction, but even I get tired of it now and again. And honestly, most fiction is just real life re-imagined isn’t it?

  3. While I had a few believability issues with the book and Abbe was a barrier for immersion in the story for me, what you say about fiction is so true. What’s that quote? Art is a lie that tells the truth?

  4. I think I’ll have to give this a try. You know I’ve never understood people who don’t read fiction. What a world they’re missing. I look forward to Abbe’s story. Thanks for the review.

  5. As soon as you mentioned a child’s death I visibly cringed. I have such a hard time with that topic but it sounds as if this author did a fabulous job with it.

  6. **but most times it is through fiction that I am able to understand someone else’s truth.** – I so so agree, Nicole. You are so right.

    As for the review, fabulous. I am going to put this one in my wishlist.

  7. I love your book review of
    Come Sunday. I like characters who come across as “honest.” I’m not afraid to read about their flaws or the unhappiness in their lives. I think it makes good novels great. Thanx.

  8. Nicole, I wanted to put your Come Sunday, on Facebook. I did but The Hound of The Baskervilles is showing not Come Sunday. I think it’s on my wall or profile page. Still learning how to get info. on main Facebook page. My name there is Leola Harris, if you want to check.

  9. Nicole, I am honored by your review. Thank you so much for featuring Come Sunday. Like you, fiction has shaped me, and through the lives of fictional characters (yes, even the flawed ones), I have learned how to be a better person.

  10. I loved this book, too.

    “The truth of Abbe’s story isn’t pretty or pleasant, nor does she handle herself particularly well, but I so appreciated the honesty of her character, the ferocious quality of her pain, and right or wrong, how she chose to go about its expression.”

    Well said!