Broken Branches is published on 27 July 2017 by Hideaway Fall and is available to buy here
‘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.
Broken Branches is a novel by M. Jonathan Lee. Billed as a psychological thriller, it feels more like an indepth study into grief, loss and mental distress.
Ian Perkins lives with his wife and young son, in a family cottage. He has inherited the family home, following the suicide of his cousin. Ian has been rather estranged from his family. He has kept them at a distance, feeling very much like an outsider. We slowly get a sense of how this has happened, through the past narratives of Ian. Ian becomes totally obsessed with his family tree in the present day, spending hour upon hour looking into the family history. He is sure that the entire Perkins family is cursed. There are so many deaths. At the same time, his relationship with Rachel his wife is falling apart. What is the truth about the family curse? Will Ian mend his relationship with Rachel?
There is a strange supernatural element to Broken Branches. You almost have to decide for yourself from the outset, whether this is real or just the perception of someone under a massive amount of stress. At times, it is very hard to tell. The author deliberately seems to keep things blurred and out of reach. There is a strong belief that this family is cursed. It has definitely been through some tough times. There is an overwhelming sense of depression and darkness throughout, as family members struggle to deal with death and loss. There is the constant ominous image of a tree haunting the cottage, together with strange noises and the image of a child appearing to Ian. The house is not a place of safety or happiness. Although we see Ian with his son and we know that the cottage can be full of love.
Ian is a fascinating chap. We get his perspective from the start, as he listens to his loud music and obsesses about the members of his family passing away. He is very focused on answers and almost totally distracted. He seems to have lost interest in his work and seems content to just let it slip. We get glimpses that his mental states might be deteriorating, in the way he plays the same music over and over again. M. Jonathan Lee is very subtle in how he approaches mental distress. We are aware that things are not quite right, as Ian’s thoughts sometimes seem a little bizarre.
Overall, this is an unusual slow building story of grief within a family. Although mental distress, suicide and depression do feature in Broken Branches, they are addressed with sensitivity and subtlety. It is moving. It is brave! I recommend it to you!