Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Julie's Review: Come Sunday

Summary: In her poignant first novel, former South African magazine editor Morley explores a mother's grief. Abbe Deighton, part-time journalist and full-time wife and mother, finds herself living in Hawaii with her preacher husband, Greg, and precocious three-year-old daughter, Cleo, thousands of miles from her South African birthplace. Her flight from an abusive father and complicit mother is not accidental—her poet brother also fled to America—and when Cleo is killed in a car accident, Abbe re-examines the choices that have brought her so far from home. She and her husband become estranged as he turns to God and forgives the man who killed their daughter while Abbe descends into self-pity and anger at the unfairness of life. Their marriage suffers and Greg loses his job, forcing Abbe to turn homeward for financial help. Upon returning to South Africa, she confronts the ghosts of her family's past and the reality of her homeland's future. Morley convincingly depicts a grief-stricken woman without resorting to clichés, and though she telegraphs the resolution of Abbe's plight early on, the storytelling, line by line, is rather beautiful.

Review: Come Sunday is one of those books where place has a great influence on the character. This is true for Abbe who grew up in South Africa. Not only is it the place but it's what happened to her there that shapes her personality. I didn't particularly care for Abbe or identify with her. Sure, my heart went out to her because she loses her daughter in a horrific accident but she's not really likable.

I don't think I liked Abbe because Abbe doesn't like herself. I understand there are times in our lives, especially for women, where we lose sight of our self. We lose it to work, family, children and husbands. Her husband, Greg, seemed more concerned about his flock at the church than what was going on at home. It's only after the tragedy with Cleo, where Greg starts to pay attention and by then it's too late.

I loved the way Ms. Morley's prose stands out in the novel. It's her writing and weaving of the old South African traditions that get me through the book. There are some remarkable passages throughout the book that really spoke to me but here is just a sample of one:

It seems to me the older I get, the more I yearn for my past. For the neighborhoods I grew up in, the little community events, my old school pals. I suspect that if I went back there I would still feel nostalgic. So it's a deceptive thing, isn't it? Nostalgia traps you into believing the past was better than what's up ahead. ~page 177

Isn't that so true? It's because we can re-create the past to be what we believe it to be and the future is so unknown that we can't do anything about it in our heads.

The book takes us from the shores of Hawaii to the mountains/plains of South Africa. Going to South Africa is going home for Abbe. It is here in South Africa where she learns the truth about her family, specifically her mother and learns about forgiveness. What it takes to forgive and how to forgive herself. Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons to learn because it means learning to let go.

There are some terrific secondary characters in the novel. From her brother Rhiaan, her sister-in-law Cicely, Jenny and Beauty.

I would love for Ms. Morley to explore the relationships between whites and blacks in South Africa. Much like Kathryn Stockett did in The Help. South Africa is a place rooted in history and trying to change. This is what intrigues me.

I'm looking forward to what Ms. Morley explores in her next novel.

Final Take: 3.75/5



Kate September 1, 2010 at 9:37 AM  

Sounds like a great read! Thanks for sharing your review.

Anna September 19, 2010 at 12:36 AM  

Abbe was hard to like, but with all she'd been through it was understandable. This was the first book I've read with a South African setting and Morley definitely brought it to life.

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