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My Sister's Funeral Paperback – October 19, 2011
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James was just 10 years old when Maria went missing, leaving him with a half formed, childish impression of his sister as a spoilt, promiscuous and rebellious teenager. Her disappearance shattered his family, while his mother searched endlessly for her daughter in this world and the next, James's father turned against Maria's memory and just three years after Maria vanished, they acrimoniously divorced. James remained with his mother who made him the target of her increasing rage against all men and during the turmoil of puberty James began to over identify with his sister resulting in a confused emergence of his sexuality that later poisoned his marriage. Using the first person narrative, Bush invites the reader to experience James's pain, uncertainty and desperation in his search to understand both his sister, and himself. His character feels authentic and I had a great deal of sympathy for the man who became a victim of such tragic circumstances.
Upon Maria's body being found, James is prompted to learn more about the sister he barely knew and piece together the old and new rumors, evidence and speculation that surround her death. He is told of a rumor that Maria was pregnant, he discovers his sister's remains were found in a crate similar to those used by his uncle's business, and he talks with an old school friend of his sister who admits she suspected Maria had a secret lover, each new piece of information contributing to a theory that points to a shifting cast of suspects. When the truth is finally revealed, it makes sense and finally gives James the closure he needs to move on with his life.
While the characterisation and the plot of My Sister's Funeral is strong, there are some weaknesses in the writing. The narrative rambles at times, not helped by the lack of clear boundaries between recollections of the past and the events of the present as well as the occasional mixing of tenses. There are some minor inconsistencies in the details and the occasional editing error, however the pace is good, and the suspense is maintained throughout the novel.
My Sister's Funeral is a thoughtful story that explores themes such as loss, grief, family and identity within the framework of an interesting murder mystery.
Author: Stephen Bush
Greeting mourners as they arrive at his sister Maria's funeral, James knew this day was inevitable. Though she had disappeared when he was only ten, the aftermath of that event had effected every aspect of his life including his troubled relationship with his parents, confused sexual urges, and eventual disintegration of his marriage. But after all these years, the question still remained, what had happened, who had killed her, and why? Was it one of these very people who had come to pay their respects or had fate already gotten even and taken the life of her murderer?
My Sister's Funeral, by Stephen Bush, is a gripping murder mystery read. Through vivid characterization, Bush describes an eclectic mix of friends and family all with varying motivations to have possibly committed the murder. His unveiling of Maria's past is well paced though at times it was bit difficult to follow the time line - what was happening in the present time versus the frequent flashbacks. Bush is strong with his narrative and uses dialogue sparingly.
What I enjoyed most in this book, though, was how well Bush gets the reader inside James' confused head and his need for closure on so many levels whether with his family, ex-wife, or his murdered sister. And while Maria was killed, in many ways James suffered a longer and more painful torture that Bush conveys thoughtfully. I will admit I had no idea who the murdered was until it was finally revealed; perhaps those more astute than I will pick up on the subtle clues and while the question of "who done it" drives the story forward, I think My Sister's Funeral is best appreciated as a character exploration.
Note: A complementary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.