‘Nothing remains buried forever…
What would you do to protect the ones you love?’
Today I review the debut novel by Irish writer Adele O’ Neill. Brothers & Sisters was published by Aria Fiction in July 2017.
Described as a novel that tells a ‘gripping, highly emotive story of love, survival, dark family secrets and sibling loyalty‘, Brothers & Sisters is a novel that deals with some harrowing topics but also some very poignant ones.
Read on for my full thoughts….
When human remains are found on Fitzpatrick Estate, Detective Kelly is drawn deep into the complex web of Fitzpatrick family secrets, as Timothy and his sister Rose, now in their sixties, are catapulted into the centre of the investigation.
When the pathology report identifies the remains as that of their missing uncle, Patrick Fitzpatrick, missing from Fitzpatrick Estate since 1970, they scramble to protect their past.
Fitzpatrick Estate in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland is the setting for this debut novel from Adele O’ Neill.
Just acquired by Michael and Marie McGrath, they have plans to develop the grounds for agri-tourism, but in order to do this they need to carry out some work on the land. It is during this time that work has to be halted, due to the discovery of human remains.
Michael McGrath grew up in the adjoining farm and has been renting the Fitzpatrick land for a number of years. He always aspired to purchase the land but it remained under the ownership of Timothy and Rose Fitzpatrick until recently.
Timothy and Rose Fitzpatrick are brother and sister. They moved away from Kilkenny many, many years previously. Now in their sixties, the discovery of this body draws them back to a time they hoped never to have to relive.
Brothers & Sisters is a dual-line story. As a reader we are taken on a harrowing journey back to 1970. Timothy and Rose live in a house where fear is the daily norm. Their father terrifies them both and their mother is lost in a world where she sees everything through a fog of alcohol.
‘I make sure to leave the kitchen spotless. My father doesn’t like to come home to an untidy kitchen. I learnt this the hard way and only a fool doesn’t learn from their mistakes…Apparently it’s all for my own good..Tim says that he is angry because he can’t understand why our mother has ended up so useless and, in his own warped way is making sure, with his fists and his belt, that we don’t go the same way.’
Each day Timothy and Rose face new horrors and they vow that they will soon leave Fitzpatrick Estate, never to return. Now, with the discovery of a body on the land, Rose and Timothy realise that the past always has a way of resurfacing and they soon find themselves caught up in the nightmare again.
On identification of the body, the case comes under the control of Detective Tony Kelly and Detective Louise Kennedy. It soon becomes clear that this is a murder case as they begin to unravel the cause of death.
With a request from Kelly, Timothy returns to Kilkenny with his partner Robert. His trepidation and fear is palpable off the pages as he crosses the boundary of the estate. Memories come flooding back as he meets the new owners. Timothy is a very hard character for the detectives to fathom. He’s quite reserved with his answers and appears quite uncomfortable with the questions been asked. Timothy is very protective of Rose, who is now widowed and living in Dublin.
As the case begins to pick up, Detectives Kelly and Kennedy find themselves unearthing information that was buried deep in the past. Their own relationship is well portrayed by Adele O’ Neill in parallel with the main storyline, as they become closer over long hours and disturbing discoveries.
Brothers & Sisters is a novel that deals with topics that some readers may find very distressing. These scenes creep up on you in the opening chapters so I just feel it necessary to point this out.
The story of Timothy and Rose is so heartbreaking. They were born into a house of horrors. Children have an expectation to be loved and cared for, an expectation of safety but for Timothy and Rose, this was not the case. Growing up in their household in Ireland in the 1970’s was a horrendous experience that left it’s marks on both for the remainder of their lives.
With secrets covered up and a past hidden behind a veil of normality, Brothers & Sisters brings the reader on a heartbreaking journey. As the truth is slowly revealed and as a murder case is brought to a close, we witness the hurt and the pain caused by past wrongdoings.
Adele O’ Neill has written some very poignant scenes in this novel that brought tears to my eyes as her descriptions were so real and so moving.
Brothers & Sisters is much more than a murder mystery. It is a look at human frailty and the impact of events that overshadowed the lives of two people whose very essence was destroyed in the one place they thought they would be safe….home.
Purchase Link ~ Brothers & Sisters
Having lived and worked in the UK and Dublin since college, Adele now lives in her home town of Arklow, Co’ Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland, with her husband and two teenage daughters.
She writes overlooking the Irish Sea and is an active member of the Wexford Literary Festival committee.
Twitter ~ @adelesbooks
Facebook ~ @adeleoneillbooks