The Hayes family have a lot of dramas going on. As the novel opens, Molly Hayes is in a small, pungent hospice room, waiting for her Daughter Rabbit to die from the terminal cancer that has robbed her body, but not her spirit of its spark. Rabbit is just forty but has led a life of love and adventure. Her daughter, Bunny, is just 12 years old, but her life is about to change in ways she cannot imagine.
Below the Big Blue Sky is a tender book about loss, family, and what keeps people going, but it is also a book of tremendous warmth and comedy. It is not the type of book to give to anyone who is easily offended, though, for some exclamations in the book are of the Anglo Saxon variety.
The book looks at the loss of Rabbit from the viewpoints of her parents, her siblings, and her daughter Juliet, who is fast becoming a young woman at the time when she needs her mother the most. Mother Molly has always leant on her faith but is close to losing it, whilst her Father, Jack, is too busy concentrating on his past to address the loss of his present. Whilst siblings Davey and Grace are both coping with the loss in their ways. Davey also faces the prospect of raising Juliet, but he cannot see himself making that commitment.
The book is very well written, with flawed but believable characters going through the fall out of a loss that none of them could have predicted. The family, although seemingly falling apart, find strength and solace within each other. The Hayes family may be chaotic, but deep down, there are very few families that aren’t, and there is much to enjoy in this novel.
Reviewed by Ben Macnair
Published by Zaffre (4 Feb. 2021)
Paperback, ISBN 978-1838770808