The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey reviewed

The Fortunate Brother Book Cover The Fortunate Brother
Donna Morrissey
Canongate Books
April 20, 2017

A powerful tale of a family reeling from the tragic loss of a son, while facing a mysterious murder on their doorstep--told by one of Canada's most beloved voices. After being uprooted from their fishing outport, the Now family is further devastated by the tragic loss of their eldest son, Chris, who died working on an Alberta oil rig. Kyle Now is still mourning his older brother when the murder of a local bully changes everything. The victim's blood is found on the family's pier, and suspicion falls first on an alienated wife, and then finally on the troubled Now family. But behind this new turmoil, Chris's death continues to plague the family. Father Sylvanus Now drowns his sorrow in a bottle, while mother Addie is facing breast cancer. And the children fight their own battles as the tension persists between Kyle and his sister, Sylvie, over her role in their brother's death. A cast of vivid characters surrounds the Now family, some intriguing, others comical--all masterfully crafted. As the murder mystery unfolds, other deeper secrets are revealed. Wise in the ways of the heart, "The Fortunate Brother" is a moving family drama from beloved storyteller Donna Morrissey."

I’d not read any previous stories by Donna Morrissey so was looking forward to reading this book. The Fortunate Brother is the story of the Now family who live in an outport in Newfoundland. I had to check on the word “outport” however I quickly discovered that it refers to a small fishing village usually in Newfoundland. Kyle and his family, immediate and extended, come over as very ordinary in the nicest sense of the word. The family has seen tragedy though and this leaves a shadow over them. The death of someone not generally liked in the outport makes for the main part of this story although there are other minor tales interwoven with that.

From the start I found the writing wonderfully descriptive. I thought it caught a mood or a feel for place and time very well. The more I read the more compelling the story telling became. I quickly found myself completely immersed in the story of everyday lives, likes, loves and hates in a small town environment.

At times this tale is tender and emotional, at times wryly humourous, at times macho and blokey. It is always very human and accessible. As someone from the other side of the pond I did find some of the colloquial writing – both words and style – took a little getting used to. However while the story here is quite simple, the telling is not and makes for a great read. I confess at times I did wonder just how fortunate the “fortunate brother” really was but I really liked the character of Kyle. I’d like to read more of Donna Morrisey’s work based on this although I did find the end didn’t quite live up to the standard of the rest of the book.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review