Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee
Published by Hideaway Fall on July 27, 2017 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, mystery, suspense
Format & Length: paperback, 294
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‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’
A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.
There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.
I’m not gonna lie, it was the hype surrounding Broken Branches that initially drew me to it. After reading the deliberately vague blurb and seeing so many people love it, I was so happy to receive a copy from the publisher to read and review that I pushed it up my TBR to read right away!
Then I sat down to start it. Read one chapter. Thought, Oh no, this is not my kind of book… and proceeded to ignore it for almost three full days. When I finally returned to it, with fresh eyes and determined to give it a proper chance, I found myself slowly being drawn into the story and ultimately wound up really enjoying the entire experience. Kudos to Lee, because it’s not often that a book will truly surprise me like this.
“He hated the tree. It had brought so much suffering, so much misery, on the family.”
Upon opening this book, we are introduced to Ian, who has moved back into his childhood home with his seemingly happy family after a tragedy. From page one, there is an eerie atmosphere present as we are also introduced to the sinister looking sycamore tree in the yard and the power that it has exerted over anyone living in the house. With the introduction of each new chapter, very slowly and only inch by inch, the story changes, mutating into a different story as it peels back layer by layer, until the very end reveals something completely distinct from what we started with.
The narration jumps from the present to Ian’s childhood as he tries to unravel the history of his family and its curse, because he thinks that solving the mystery will fix whatever is broken between him and his wife, Rachel. Although Broken Branches reads like a ghost story, I wouldn’t actually classify it as one. It’s more of a contemporary novel with a gothic feel (reminding me of The Thirteenth Tale), and Lee uses the style to great effect, keeping a haze around the mystery and leaving you in suspense.
“Saturday was the best and worst day of the week.
It was the best because the house was empty all day.
It was the worst because the house was empty all day.”
Quite a thought-provoking book, there is so much symbolism within these pages, inspiring me to want to re-read and pick apart the pieces I didn’t notice the first time around. It explores themes of grief and mental illness in a sensitive and sympathetic way. There were a few loose ends that I personally would have liked to be tied up, but I can understand why the author would choose to leave them vague and let you form your own opinions.
If any of this sounds like something you might like, I definitely encourage you to try Broken Branches.
*Many thanks to Hideaway Fall and M. Jonathan Lee for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.