In The Absence Of Miracles by Michael J. Malone #BookReview #BlogTour

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.
With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about.  A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.
Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

I'm honoured to be hosting the blog tour for In The Absence of Miracles today. My grateful thanks to Michael J. Malone, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Orenda Books consistently publish books with fabulous front covers but In The Absence Of Miracles (designed by the hugely talented Mark Swan at kid-ethic) is especially stunning. Now, the saying goes that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but here you can do exactly that because the gorgeous exterior houses a novel which is one of the most beautifully written and astutely empathetic books I've ever had the privilege to read.
At the start, John Docherty is in a familiar position for many middle-aged people as he begins to clear his family home following his mother's massive stroke which has left her unable to live independently. Such an undertaking is obviously bound to stir up old memories but John is shocked when he finds a photograph of himself with another boy and soon realises that he had another brother. John can't understand why he knows nothing about this brother and as he begins to delve further into his family's past, he starts to suspect there are dark secrets, becoming increasingly tormented by his discoveries as his life falls apart. Throughout the book there are suggestions that John has forgotten that something dreadful took place years ago; there's something almost there, the truth about the past is just out of reach but why has he constructed emotional barriers which don't allow him to recall much more than the odd hazy memory?
Much of the book is set in the present, written from John's first person perspective and gives readers a heartbreaking bird's eye view of a man whose mental health is put under severe pressure as he is haunted by what he remembers and what he has forgotten. His relationship and work suffers as he becomes obsessed with searching for the truth but it gradually becomes obvious that in order to understand what happened, he will have to allow himself to open up to what he has protected himself from for so long. John has often felt resentful of his brother, Chris who spent years away from home while he has borne the burden of caring for their mother by himself. The little glimpses into their childhood seems to suggest that their father was strict and rather distant whereas their mum was more tactile and gregarious but he has passed away, she is in a nursing home and John is being torn apart by pain but doesn't know whether he's ready to confront it.
John and Chris make a chilling discovery regarding their brother's disappearance but their investigation doesn't go unnoticed and alongside the heart-rending domestic drama, there are unsettling scenes where it seems that somebody doesn't want them digging too deeply into the past. Some chapters are written in the third person and set years ago and mean there is an ominous sense of foreboding to the modern day scenes as I began to piece together the little clues about what really happened.
This is a novel which doesn't flinch from tackling the most difficult, frequently taboo subjects but Michael J. Malone's beautifully lyrical writing ensures it never feels exploitative and even the most shocking moments are written about with a sensitive honesty which brought tears to my eyes. He explores complicated family dynamics, betrayal, guilt and the possibility of some sort of resolution and acceptance with perceptiveness and deep compassion. In The Absence Of Miracles is a breathtakingly good book; powerful yet tender and an emotional masterclass in how to write about harrowing and difficult issues. An absolute must-read.

In The Absence Of Miracles is published by Orenda Books. It available as an ebook now and will be out in paperback on 18th September 2019. Purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.


  1. Huge thanks for this incredible blog tour support Karen xx


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