The subject of flawed families seems to be a theme in the books I am reading at the moment. But isn't every family ultimately flawed and every book that addresses this issue will find a sympathetic and interested readership. My Father's House by Bethany Dawson, her first novel, tells of a son's reluctant return to the family home, from his comfortable life in Dublin to County Down.
To leave a rural landscape and travel to Dublin is a well trodden path. Bethany Dawson's story tells of a return and addresses how Robbie, the main character, faces up to what he left behind and what he has chosen to forget. The reason for his extended period away with no return visits soon begins to reveal itself in the character of his hard and cold father whom his mother has left and who is left living alone in his farmhouse in its advanced state of decay and who has a serious health condition.
The dynamics of the family are skillfully revealed. Robbie's two sisters help him to see both what he has tried to not accept and what he could not see. His mother's new relationship and home is a further challenge for him to come to terms with and the ultimate acceptance of his father's fragility brings both emotion and humanity to this powerful story.
As the second debut novel I have read and reviewed this week, the skill of Dawson's story telling is plain to see. An absorbing story, it is one that makes us question our obligations to our parents, their own need to live full lives and the complex relationships which are families.
My Father's House is one of those books that, although quietly understated, stays with the reader after the final page is turned, to drift back into the subconsciousness as the parting message is further thought about and considered.
My Father's House is published by Liberties Press www.libertiespress.com