Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Trish has been friends with Ciara and Stephen since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, they are still as close as ever. But there are secrets even best friends cannot share.
The death of a stranger prompts Trish to realise that her long-hidden past may soon be exposed, with potentially disastrous consequences for her family.
Behind closed doors, her friends are each struggling to contain their own secrets. Ciara is forced to confront the future she has so long avoided, while Stephen must face reality when arguments at home take a dark turn.
One Monday Morning is the third book from Irish author Jennifer Burke but the first I have read from this talented author. I say talented because my god this book proved to be an extremely powerful read that reeled you in slowly from the beginning and then continued to pack punch after punch right until the closing chapters. I hadn't really known what to expect from this author's work but friends have said her previous two books were very good but I get the sense she has really come into her own with this outstanding book that left me emotionally wrung out after reading of three people – Trish, Ciara and Stephen who are dealing with a multitude of issues and secrets. The writing is of such a high calibre in this book and not once did the author shy away from the topics being dealt with, never sugar coating any aspects for the reader instead it's clear this was a book Jennifer had been longing to write and she threw her everything into it. From the colours used in the cover it suggested this was no light and fluffy women's fiction read instead it proved to be gritty, emotional and commanding. Your opinions constantly swayed back and forth throughout. There is no right or wrong answer to any of the issues the characters are facing it's the readers individual opinion on the subject matter which will affect how you view the characters actions, thought processes and ultimately the decisions they will make. I can't say I loved or enjoyed this book because they are the wrong words to use in this case considering the topical issues. I felt One Monday Morning was a tour de force which deserves to be read by many. Jennifer Burke took me on a journey that was tense, thrilling and powerful and had me fully invested in each of our three main protagonists.
The book opens with a brief prologue as Trish stands on a cliff overlooking Dublin City. She is contemplating life and all that has happened and how once the truth emerges nothing will ever be the same but the truth needs to come out, it has been buried too long and too many people are suffering. Trish wonders whether she should jump? Would that be a cop out? Should she stay and face the music? Then everything stops and we move back in time to four weeks earlier and from that point on the chapters are written alternatively from Trish, Ciara and Stephen’s viewpoints. I would have thought it may have been difficult to keep track of each of the three characters and their distinct problems as each chapter changed around but it wasn't in the slightest and that was testament to the excellent writing from the author. The author deftly builds and builds the tension and dilemma's expertly weaving the storylines together through various connections that only hints were alluded to throughout the first half of the story and when the revelations come spilling out they were shocking but one could only feel nothing but sympathy for our three friends. Trish, Ciara and Stephen have been friends since summer camp and vowed to remain friends for ever through the good times and the bad. There had been a fourth person in this group but he has since passed away. 'That's why we became friends to see each other through the hard times'. The times featured in this book will test the trio to their limits but will only serve to demonstrate the power of friendship and love. I thought it was excellent to have a male perspective in this friendship as more often than not in the sort of books I read there are only ever women, having Stephen present added substance and depth to the book and his storyline was shocking but sadly I suspect all too real.
Trish is an air hostess flitting in and out of Dublin but always making time for the people she loves most her family and friends. Quite early on the reader senses Trish is a woman attempting to keep everything together. She is living on a knife edge and hiding something which if it emerged would have devastating consequences for many people. She can't confined even in Ciara or Stephen let alone her family and through bottling this up it has begun to eat away at her inside. It has affected all aspects of her life particularly her relationships and she views her job as a way of escaping everything if only for brief periods of time. Beth is Trish's sister married to Larry and with a young baby called Conall who is not very well and was not expected to live for very long. Their mother Deirdre has firm beliefs and is not very close to Trish yet Beth receives all the support in the world. There is such a tangled web surrounding Trish and her family and I could see how she was so torn in what she was keeping secret and the ramifications it would have had if the exact truth come out. Trish tried to appear like she was strong and would get through anything but without the back up of those close to you it can be extremely difficult. I'm not saying her two friends couldn't help but she needed to find the strength to tell them. Basically Trish held a deep rooted fear inside of her for what she had done. It was right for her at the time but others may not think so and everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that's what makes this book so good that any one who reads it or characters in the story will all view it differently and form their own judgements. I stood back and didn't form any firm thoughts until I had read the entire book because as they say there are two sides to every story. But to see the torment Trish goes through was hard to read and I hoped she would make the right decision for her and not for anyone else. Confronting your concerns is sometimes the only way too move forward and I hoped Trish found the inner strength to do this.
Ciara is an ambitious woman who has a long term goal in her sights but is putting problems more close to home and in the present firmly to one compartment in her mind. She is an athlete in training and wants to reach the Rio Olympics. Life is regimented by a strict training, diet and rest schedule that means she often forgets to live in the now and look around her. Ciara has a partner Nikki and although they have a civil partnership they wish to marry soon and begin the next step in their relationship. Well at least one of the women does the other is more than hesitant and has her eyes firmly fixed on gold considering she missed out on the last two Olympics. On one hand Ciara's determination to achieve her dream is to be admired - that go out there attitude and get what you want is fantastic. But on the other I think she was extremely selfish to Nikki's needs and her longing and what they had agreed upon. I couldn't see why she couldn’t be more open to move forward and accept some changes to allow Nikki to be truly happy. I mean Nikki was supporting Ciara in her goal and really all she wanted was that something which would complete them. Ciara didn't seem to want to meet anyone halfway and like I suppose we all do in life we say yeah, yeah sure we'll do that, when in reality we have no intention of doing so. I felt Ciara was messing Nikki around and that it wouldn't have taken much for her to become more open and accepting and she did seem to jump the gun quickly. This quote sums up Ciara's character perfectly. 'Ciara is a fixer. Her big heart wants all her friends to entrust their woes to her so she can help. But she is less inclined to do the same'.
As for Stephen he is going through a very rough time. He was let go from his high powered job - the recession still has a sting in its tail for many people and now he is stuck in a job which he views as a huge comedown from where he once was. He is struggling to make ends meet and the endless pressure to maintain the lifestyle they were used to from girlfriend Lisa does nothing to ease the strain. Stephen's storyline was perhaps the most surprising and although aspects do eventually tie in with the others I did initially think god this is slightly unbelievable but in reality I'm afraid to say it's not. Bravo Jennifer you had the wool pulled over my eyes when we first encounter Stephen and shame on me I formed my opinions far too quickly and passed judgement before reading the full story regarding Stephen and that's what happens to us in society. We are presented with what we believe are the facts but then really appearances can be very deceiving. I thought why on earth was Stephen – a grown man allowing this to happen? Stand up for yourself for god's sake find some strength and courage but I suppose the situation he found himself spiralled out of all control and once you have sunk to a low without the help of others and confining in them in the first place it can be very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stephen's problem really was twisted and an almost manic feel overtook the writing and scenes in which he featured but it did add even more power to the story.
None of the characters in One Monday Morning are perfect in any sense of the word. They each have their flaws but who can blame them considering all they have been forced to endure and live with on a daily basis. The blurb mentions the book focuses on 'many social issues facing contemporary Ireland' and it truly does but it is sad that this has to be the case. Jennifer Burke has done a stunning job on exploring 'the fragility and complexities of human relationships, and the importance of friendship in surviving an unpredictable world'. This book is thought provoking, impressive and makes you stop and view the world in an entirely different light. It would be an ideal choice for a book club and inspire many constructive arguments and debates. I liked how everything wasn't all neatly wrapped up in the end with a fairytale ending, that would have been a cop out instead the author remained true to everything that had gone before. The book highlighted that everyone has a lot more going on than at first we are led to believe but scratch beneath the surface and lies and secrets will come to the fore. The shocks and questions kept coming which made for a riveting if at times difficult read. You shouldn't let this book pass you by it truly is a brilliant piece of work and I am only sorry I have not read anything from this author before.
Many thanks to Jennifer Burke and Poolbeg for my copy of One Monday Morning to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.