Review: The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey


About the Author:

Donna Morrissey is the award-winning author of Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance, What They Wanted, and Sylvanus Now, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She grew up in The Beaches, a small fishing outport in Newfoundland & Labrador and now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Author website

About the Book:

Publisher summary: The Fortunate Brother is a dark, atmospheric and compelling novel about the aftermath of a murder in a claustrophobic rural community in Newfoundland. When a body is found in the lake suspicion falls on the troubled Now family. As the mystery unfolds other, far deeper, secrets are revealed. Compassionate and wise, beautiful and brutal, The Fortunate Brother is the story of a family and a community in turmoil and confirms Donna Morrissey’s place as one of Canada’s foremost storytellers.

260 pages, publication date April 2017

My rating: 4 (out of 5)

My review:

I received an advance review copy courtesy of NetGalley and Canongate Books in return for an honest review.

I only realised this is the third in a three-volume series of books after I started to read it but I felt it worked well as a standalone read.  However, it’s made me curious to know more about the events that have brought the family to this point so I may well look out the previous two books.  Initially, I thought this was going to be a depressing read because of the troubled nature of all the characters and it took me a while to get used to Morrissey’s writing style.  Not being familiar with Newfoundland culture, I can’t testify to the authenticity of the vocabulary and dialogue but it seemed right for the characters and pretty soon I adjusted to the rhythm.   The story is a combination of family drama and murder mystery but the mystery element doesn’t feel tacked on because the way the various characters react to events (in particular the main protagonist, Kyle) seems believable given their state of mind.  The unseen but ever present emotional heart of the book is Chris, Kyle’s brother, who has died in an oil rig accident before the book opens.    In various ways, all the family are struggling to cope with their grief and/or guilt at his death.  In particular, Kyle – seen as the “fortunate brother” because he’s still alive. Morrissey adeptly plays out how the surviving family members are driving themselves apart when they are at greatest need of coming together: (“Too isolated in their loneliness to feel the good still left to them.”)  Although bleak at times, this was an engrossing read.

In three words: Atmospheric, emotional, gritty