Sent to me by Hideaway Fall in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 27/07/17
Publisher: Hideaway Fall
Format: Paperback, 304pp
Summed up in a word: Grievous
Broken Branches has been on all our minds for quite a while now; ever since Hideaway Fall sent us all a brilliant survival kit (tea included). If you are a book blogger and you haven’t received a copy of Broken Branches then get yourself over to Hideaway Fall’s website and sign yourself up. I sat down to read Broken Branches pretty much as soon as I got it in the post. I was caught off guard by this novel, it caused quite a bit of a emotional reaction. I think this was mainly due to my own personal life and the subject matter the book is based on touched a nerve or two. That said, it was superbly written, subtly (then not so subtly) developing into a story of obsession and grief. I recommend this to all readers who appreciate the more emotional and visceral novel experience. Full review below.
Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’
A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.
There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.
Broken Branches at its heart is a story about grief and how it manifests itself in different people. I was deeply moved by the narrative, at times passionately, and that had a lot to do with my own life and my family. After the tragic death of his brother, Ian Perkins sets out to face his past and discover the truth behind the family curse that has been haunting the Perkins’ for generations. Ian inherits his childhood home after his brother’s passing and he makes the decision to move the family in. The grief of recent events seems to have taken hold of Ian and his wife, as well as the strangeness of being back on the farm, and Ian is determined to alleviate the stress by working out his family’s past and figuring out the source of the curse.
Ian didn’t follow in the footsteps of his father or his older brother. He was shooed from the farm and directed towards education. Ian has never really felt at home at the farm, always feeling left out or ignored. The narrative of Broken Branches is split between two different arcs, both centred around Ian. First there is the present day task of sorting through the families records. Ian is obsessed with finding out what happened all those years ago and believes the secret lies in the old family archives. And the other storyline focuses on Ian’s experience as a young boy growing up on the farm. The flashbacks serve to elaborate on why Ian is how he is in the present, how his relationship with his brother Stuart changed so drastically, and why Stuart ended up taking his own life. The ‘young Ian’ sections are full of wonder, curiosity and frustration. But MJL’s writing really shines during the present day story arc.
Adult Ian is at his wits end. His wife Rachel doesn’t acknowledge him, she has locked herself away, and he has tried everything to make her understand that he needs to find out the truth. Ian wants to get their marriage back on track and he sees his research as the only way to achieve that. He is a obsessed with the family history, clawing over every detail. Ian and Rachel have a young son Harry who is the light of Ian’s life. Ian’s love for Harry was brilliant and I really appreciated their moments together. I connected with these moments as they are very similar to the chats I have with my 3 year old, they warmed my heart. But as the story develops and we get insights into Ian and Rachel’s failed marriage, the tone and atmosphere of the novel takes a darker and more chilling turn.
MJL is a talented writer. With three other books under his belt, he has developed a well structured, compassionate and human writing style. MJL is observant, he mixes nature and psychology to create eerie scenes that leave an imprint on the mind. MJL also manages to make this novel read like a mystery. Why did Stuart end his life? What is the curse? Why did Ian’s father shun him and cast him away? Why won’t Rachel connect with Ian anymore? I had these questions swirling around my head all the way to the shocking and deeply emotional ending. The themes in Broken Branches are darker than most. Grief, mental health issues and death. But MJL still manages to bring an uplifting note to the finale which rounded out the book well.
Overall I have given Broken Branches a 4/5 stars because it was a great read. There was a point that I wasn’t sure that I could continue with the story. I found some of the subject matter difficult to digest but that is mainly personal and may not affect other readers the same way. I continued on as I had many pressing questions that needed answering and the only way of finding out the truth was to soldier on. I am glad I did, I recommend you get yourself a copy of Broken Branches as I think everyone will be seeing it around quite a bit in 2017.
About M. Jonathan Lee
M. Jonathan Lee is an award winning English author. His debut novel, “The Radio” was nationally shortlisted in The Novel Prize 2012. His second novel, “The Page” went on to become the Amazon #5 most downloaded thriller. His third novel, the critically acclaimed “A Tiny Feeling of Fear” was released in September 2015. “Broken Branches”, his fourth novel, will be released by Hideaway Fall in Spring 2017.