IN THE ABSENCE OF MIRACLES | Michael J. Malone
09.19.2019 | Orenda Books
Rating: 4/5 stars
John Docherty’s mother has just suffered a stroke and is facing a future where she will never be able to live independently again. In order to care for his mother, John is forced to sell his childhood home. While clearing out boxes from his family home he stumbles upon a box containing a photograph of him and his brother, except something is off about this photo. Instead of being the older sibling in the picture, John realizes that he is the younger of the two boys, which means that he has an older brother he knows nothing about.
Why can’t John remember this mystery brother? Why have his parents never mentioned this brother? John embarks on a journey to find his missing brother and ends up finding the door into a part of his childhood he has closed off from his memory. What really happened all those years ago in the Docherty household?
The nature of evil. The evil in our nature. The good and the great have debated for millennia what caused that corruption of the human spirit.
Michael J. Malone’s latest literary exploration is a mesmerizing look into the life of John Docherty, his family, and a series of dark secrets from his childhood. At its heart IN THE ABSENCE OF MIRACLES is a story of crime fiction, but the topics Malone chooses to touch on span the book far beyond the typical reaches of the genre. This is not a story for the faint of heart. There is tragedy and an exploration of many taboo topics that will rip at any reader’s heart strings.
Central to the mystery and depth of this story is the main character of John Docherty. As we meet John we discover that he has just encountered a tragedy with his mother’s stroke. The reader watches as he deals with the challenges this presents and how those feelings are compounded with the discovery of a missing brother. There is instantly a bond formed between the reader and John, however, Malone tests these feelings repeatedly by showing the self-destructive side to John as he poorly chooses coping mechanisms. These flaws made John a more realistic character to me, as I was able to relate and sympathize with his thoughts and actions.
I think the technical term is disassociation. You’re a child. You’re helpless. Your betrayal is so deep you don’t know who you can trust, and in the absence of a miracle, the mind learns to protect itself.
I will hold off on expanding in too many details about the other characters involved in this story, as some of my favorite moments from this story was meeting these individuals. The relationships and interactions that John has with these characters are pivotal to not only moving the story forward, but also to bringing out the truth of John’s childhood. The deeper John gets in his investigation and the closer he gets to the truth about his missing brother, the more he finds out about himself. How he deals with these unraveling truths is at times equally heartbreaking and empowering. Malone’s ability to draw out my emotions through John was absolutely incredible. I felt my heart break right alongside John.
This is the second book I’ve read by Malone and what I’ve discovered about his books is simple: prepare yourself for more than what meets the eye. There are always a multitude of layers to Malone’s books and unpacking those layers is a wonderful experience. In typical Malone fashion, this story is an intricate layer of emotions and puzzle pieces that ultimately form a story that breaks your heart, while also captivating your mind with a mystery.
I’ve already slotted AFTER HE DIED into my Fall/Winter line-up and added A SUITABLE LIE to my TBR. If you’re new to Malone’s work I highly recommend starting with this amazing story or HOUSE OF SPINES if you’re looking for something slightly creepier.
It’s kindness that brings us back to ourselves.
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Disclosure: A huge thank you to Orenda Books for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.