This book follows the lives of the Mormon Bradley family in the moments before and after their youngest family member Issy dies from meningitis. Ian the father has been raised a Mormon and holds the position of Bishop in their local church. For Ian the Book of Mormon always holds the answer, whenever he has any doubt Ian turns to the Book and lets the text decide for him; it’s as if he had no will of his own. The Mormon Church is a patriarchal one and as such Ian is responsible for making sure his family adhere to the teachings; when his wife Claire can no longer function and refuses to get out of Issy’s bed after her death he has to keep his disrupted home life secret from the church and the Book’s answers are of no help.
Claire converted to Mormonism when she fell in love with Ian at university; her faith may already be wavering and she questions some of the Church’s more extreme patriarchal and misogynistic teachings as she has already experienced a different way of life. When Issy dies Claire just wants the world to stop, to stop and give her the time she needs to understand what has happened.
Their oldest daughter Zippy is devoted to her first love Adam and wants desperately for them to be ‘married eternally’ in the church. Alma their oldest son is passionate about football but is not allowed to play competitively despite being invited to try out for Everton’s junior team because of the lifestyle of professional footballers; and seven year old Jacob accepts that there are school things and there are church things. As miracles can happen he decides he’s going to bring his little sister Issy back to life.
The devastating sudden death of a child and its effects on the family is well portrayed; the church is equally a great help and a hindrance as Issy’s death affects each family members in different ways. As people questioning their faith and the church I enjoyed Claire and Alma as characters and could, at times, really dislike Ian who seemed to be inflicting Mormonism on his family; Jacob’s innocent acceptance of events and pragmatic approach to Issy’s death also seemed very real. The open ending – had Alma regained his faith and Zippy lost hers and will Claire be lost forever reinforced the fact that in life there often are no answers.