| Book Review |
Broken Branches – M. Jonathan Lee

 

Everything Ian strives for is aimed at “moving forward to where they had once been,” but in doing so, he might just sacrifice it all to unravel his fascinating but dark family history …

| Introduction | 

” The truth is I lost all track of time
And I wound up wandering

Unravelling fragments all inside 
But I rise up all aligning”
– Pinegrove (couplet from Visiting)

The couplet at the beginning of the book says it all: this is a journey through time and the haze of memories. What part is true and what is false? Ian desperately needs to prove the Perkins family curse exists but for whom? More importantly, why? His solution to the situation he (together with his wife Rachel and little son Harry) is in, he feels is to unravel the past in order to move forward. But how can that be so when the past only explains what lies behind? The family tree is broken, just like the branches of the sycamore tree with its ever menacing presence, standing in front of Cobweb Cottage.

| Storyline | 

Ian and Rachel’s marriage is not what it used to be. They both reside in Cobweb Cottage but seem to live separately, both feeling the need to be left alone. Ian is devoted to their son Harry and feels reassured whenever he is back and comes to check on his father. If Ian is honest, he welcomes his time alone for Rachel’s presence can be depressing and she thoroughly disapproves of his research. Day after day, Ian closes himself away in the study to organise the family papers and to build the family tree. You would think this is easy but the Perkins family has never been one of chatter and family story telling. Nevertheless, Ian is convinced unravelling the family’s history will bring to light the existence of the curse. At intervals we witness the little family’s untroubled days when the three of them, Ian, Rachel and Harry, were happy.

We learn about the mother and father and their two sons, Ian and his older brother Stuart. The household is one of silence mostly, and everything is arranged according to the father’s wishes. Not once does their mother contradict or speak up to her husband. The atmosphere is dark and brooding and all the questions Ian wants to ask are never voiced. Their uncle’s visit triggers a growing fear in the boys and where Stuart is silently aligning with his father and never mentions it again, Ian is desperate for answers but they never come. On Stuart’s sixteenth birthday, their father lets his sons in on the family secret – the curse. From then on, their lives will never be the same. From then on, both feel the heavy burden of the Perkins family and Ian is haunted with memories he never created…

| My Thoughts |

This atmospheric novel left me with an overwhelming feeling of sadness – for the little boy, for Ian, for all members of the (cursed) Perkins family. It is too simple to blame a horrible event from the past for everything that has happened since and frankly, the insights into the family life of Ian growing up were just heartbreaking. Like the ominous sycamore tree in front of Cobweb Cottage, the Perkins’ family tree consists of broken branches as well as tarnished and disintegrated relationships. We only perceive a fraction of what has happened and why the family members act as they do; for instance, why Ian becomes estranged with his brother Stuart is left to the reader’s imagination but the consequences are harrowing.

As the book moves from the present to the past we slowly get a clearer picture of the lives of the Perkins family members, and it is obvious there is little happiness or joy. Ian’s childhood feels suffocating and the relationship with his father and mother heartbreaking, though it was easy to empathise with both brothers. Most of the narrative is about Ian and his inner turmoil, his obsession with the family tree and its alleged curse, and his family life with his wife Rachel and their little boy Harry. There are supernatural elements interwoven with the narrative and you can feel the menacing Perkins’ history, like the sycamore tree, hanging over the cottage and its inhabitants. An intriguing psychological novel that will leave you with an unsettling feeling and the need to get out in the open and breathe in the fresh air.

| About the Author | 

M. Jonathan Lee Author Image

MJonathan Lee (also known as Jonathan Lee) is a nationally shortlisted author who was born in South Yorkshire in 1974. He still lives and works in Yorkshire, England and has three children. The author began writing seriously at the age of 9 at which point he self-published a magazine which ran for six issues and sold more than 500 copies. Since then, he has written a number of short stories and eagerly hoarded away journal after journal of ideas before finally writing The Radio, shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He is currently touring schools, colleges, prisons and universities talking about creative writing and storytelling. The Radio continues to receive excellent reviews. His second novel, The Page was released in February 2015. His third novel is A Tiny Feeling of Fear which was released in September 2015. MJonathan Lee is a regular commentator on the BBC and works closely with Rethink and Mind Charities to raise awareness of mental health issues.

| Book Info | 

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 Paperback  308 pages
 Publisher  Hideaway Fall Publishing (27 July 2017)
 ISBN  978-0995492332
 eBook  702 KB (27 July 2017)
 ASIN  B0735L3VVJ
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