Half-Broken Things by Morag Joss

February 7, 2012
By Wesley Poirier BRONZE, Oxford, Massachusetts
Wesley Poirier BRONZE, Oxford, Massachusetts
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How far would one go for love? Would you do things that would bring your morals and values to be challenged? Half Broken Things answers these questions with stunning language, a clear message, and a strong literary performance brings these questions to light. Awarded a prestigious Silver Dagger Award by the Crime Writers’ Association, author Morag Joss explores the limitless depths of human isolation in her book about when the lives of three incompatible outcasts clash in the British countryside.
In the beginning, Jean, Michael and Steph appear to share little in common, other than somewhat meaningless lives and childhoods characterized by abuse, abandonment and crushed hopes and dreams. 64 year old house sitter Jean lives purely day to day by running scenarios in her head with the items of others that she watches during their absences. Michael is a petty thief who has been reduced to stealing from churches to live on soup and pay off his court fees. Steph, abused by her boyfriend and trying to escape a life unfulfilled, harboring their child and trying to provide for him.
By pure chance, Steph and Michael find each other. Steph, in her rush and need, begs Michael to stay with him for a while, Michael in his loneliness and struggle lets her stay, and eventually she finds a place in his heart. Jean must deal with mandatory retirement, a disruption to the life she has been living for some 35 years. Jean slips into a somewhat disillusioned state and loses her grip on reality, throwing caution to the wind and doing as she pleases, theft included.
The cautiously calibrated style in which Morag allows events to develop, creating a sinister tension and mysterious circumstance. She plunges the readers into complete suspense and disbelief with each turn of the page. With much skill, Joss manages to build each unthinkable act to appear excusable given current situation. Just as the author crafts narrative that both defies belief yet seems completely plausible, she uses that same gifted sleight of hand on her characters, who simultaneously push the reader away by their desperate actions while also inspiring empathy and even attachment. This work is truly a literary masterpiece.

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