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In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

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Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
Posted in | .

‘And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer.
And to violence…’ 

In the Absence of Miracles is the latest novel from prize-winning poet and author, Michael J Malone. Due for publication on September 19th with Orenda Books, it is described as ‘shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive…domestic noir at its most powerful. A sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.’

Michael J Malone doesn’t shy away from highlighting a very taboo subject in his latest novel. There are shocking reveals that will sicken even the most hardened of hearts. In the Absence of Miracles introduces the reader to the Docherty family, a very complicated one, with a shocking secret at the core of their very being. When John Docherty’s mother suffers a stroke, she is transferred from the family home to a suitable nursing home. John’s father passed away some time back and his brother Chris is away travelling, leaving John as her primary carer. John is a teacher by trade and has an on/off relationship with Angela, a single mother of one. Theirs is a complex relationship with John always backing off when a more serious commitment is a possibility , but Angela is prepared to wait for him…so far.

After his mother’s move to the nursing home, John has to accept the fact that they will have to sell the family home to cover the costs of her care. He returns home, faced with an enormous task but decides to tackle the attic first. Years of dust has gathered over everything and as John begins to examine the contents of various boxes, he makes a very unsettling discovery. He uncovers photographs of himself as a toddler in the arms of another boy who is apparently his brother. This revelation comes as a complete shock to John as, up to this point, he had never heard of this boy, this teenager who obviously disappeared from his life.

John has no idea where to begin in searching for the truth, but decides there and then that it is something he has to see through to the end. He goes to the library and works his way through endless old newspapers, becoming obsessed with the truth. His job, his relationship, his life all go on hold as he attempts to unveil a past that he has no recollection of whatsoever. In his discussion with an old childhood friend, John comes to realise that there are chunks of his own past that he has completely blocked out…but why? When his brother Chris returns home they team up to find out what really happened and to finally get to the bottom of this secret. But for John and Chris, they are about to open up a Pandora’s Box, as the horrifying truth is slowly revealed. Their present lives are about to be changed forever by a past that will haunt them forever.

In the Absence of Miracles takes the reader back on this journey with John as he starts to have flashbacks of incidents that he had buried deep in his psyche. His fear of commitment, his alcohol consumption, his life to date all have their roots in something that happened in his younger days. There is no denying that parts of the book are disturbing and uncomfortable to read but Michael Malone has written the scenes with great sensitivity. There were a few areas that left me a little confused and, at times, I felt the dialogue was lacking in emotion. I thought the content was strong enough without these parts, causing me a little frustration.

There are many abhorrent themes highlighted in this novel and at times it can be hard to fathom the depths of depravity people go to and the damage that their actions cause to others.

I was struck by the words of one person in particular who has read In the Absence of Miracles, a person who regularly speaks publicly about her own traumatic experiences, Madeleine Black. Madeleine states that ‘Michael J Malone has this extraordinary talent to write about difficult subjects in such a beautiful way. He is not afraid to tackle sensitive subjects that are usually kept quiet. A book that resonated with me on many levels and one I won’t forget’

Michael J Malone will capture the heart and soul of many readers with this his latest novel. It is affecting. It is dark. It is disturbing.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Pre-order your copy online here.