Donna Morrissey on the many ways a family deals with grief
Donna Morrissey's latest novel, The Fortunate Brother, is the third in her trilogy of books about the Now family in Newfoundland. Unusually for Morrissey, the book takes the form of a mystery — when a local bully turns up dead, Kyle Now and his father Sylvanus become murder suspects. At the same time, the family is grieving the loss of Kyle's brother Chris. What follows is a page-turning crime novel as well as a meditation on grief and loss.
Donna Morrissey spoke to The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers from Halifax. This interview originally aired in January 2017.
Navigating the stages of grief
Years ago, I worked with a woman who had actually killed her husband, a bully of a nature that I can't even describe. I really got caught up in her story, but one of the things that I was not prepared for was when she came to me with feelings of grief. First she went through the shock of what had happened and the anger that she had been provoked into such an act, and then the grief, where she actually missed him. And that was really puzzling for me. I could understand the killing, even, but I couldn't understand the grief. Of course, in small towns where I come from we get these kinds of bullies too, though probably not that severe. And I wanted to explore that — what do we owe them? What do they owe us?
Exploring her own family's difficult story
The heart of this novel is Kyle and his search for peace in grieving his brother. All of this does parallel my own story, with the loss of my brother and the fallout from that — our family's search for peace, our mother's subsequent breast cancer and our family dealing with that. It's a multi-layered story, but the kernel of it all is Kyle, who's torn between the mother, who's trying to sweep her house clean of grief, and the father, who seeks solace in that whiskey bottle. My family and I straddled that pathway. They each banked that pathway, the mother on the left, the father on the right. And many times we had to choose between the two. And that's where Kyle finds himself — trying to be the surrogate husband and the crutch for the father, and praying to God that he doesn't get lost himself.
Donna Morrissey's comments have been edited and condensed.