Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's Reviews > My Sister's Funeral

My Sister's Funeral by Stephen Bush
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's review
Feb 06, 2012

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bookshelves: aussie-author
Read on September 23, 2012 — I own a copy

Seventeen year old Maria was on her way home from school in Newcastle when she vanished without a trace. Now, thirty years later, her remains have been discovered in a wooden crate buried under a culvert more than 1000 km away in Broken Hill. As James prepares for his sister's funeral, he reexamines the mystery surrounding her disappearance, speaking to family and friends in a desperate attempt to make sense of his sister's fate.

James was just 10 years old when Maria went missing, leaving him with a half formed, childish impression of his sister as a spoilt, promiscuous and rebellious teenager. Her disappearance shattered his family, while his mother searched endlessly for her daughter in this world and the next, James's father turned against Maria's memory and just three years after Maria vanished, they acrimoniously divorced. James remained with his mother who made him the target of her increasing rage against all men and during the turmoil of puberty James began to over identify with his sister resulting in a confused emergence of his sexuality that later poisoned his marriage. Using the first person narrative, Bush invites the reader to experience James's pain, uncertainty and desperation in his search to understand both his sister, and himself. His character feels authentic and I had a great deal of sympathy for the man who became a victim of such tragic circumstances.

Upon Maria's body being found, James is prompted to learn more about the sister he barely knew and piece together the old and new rumors, evidence and speculation that surround her death. He is told of a rumor that Maria was pregnant, he discovers his sister's remains were found in a crate similar to those used by his uncle's business, and he talks with an old school friend of his sister who admits she suspected Maria had a secret lover, each new piece of information contributing to a theory that points to a shifting cast of suspects. When the truth is finally revealed, it makes sense and finally gives James the closure he needs to move on with his life.

While the characterisation and the plot of My Sister's Funeral is strong, there are some weaknesses in the writing. The narrative rambles at times, not helped by the lack of clear boundaries between recollections of the past and the events of the present as well as the occasional mixing of tenses. There are some minor inconsistencies in the details and the occasional editing error, however the pace is good, and the suspense is maintained throughout the novel.

My Sister's Funeral is a thoughtful story that explores themes such as loss, grief, family and identity within the framework of an interesting murder mystery.

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