Tuesday 19 July 2016

Reviewed: The Name I Call Myself by Beth Moran

TITLE: The Name I Call Myself
AUTHOR: Beth Moran
PUBLISHER: Lion Fiction


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All Faith Harp wants is a quiet life - to take care of her troubled brother, Sam, earn enough money to stop the wolves snapping at her heels, and to keep her past buried as deep as possible. And after years of upheaval, she might have just about managed it: she's engaged to the gorgeous and successful Perry, is holding down a job, and Sam's latest treatment seems to actually be working this time. But, for Faith, things never seem to stay simple for long. Her domineering mother-in-law-to-be is planning a nightmare wedding, including the wedding dress from hell. And the man who killed her mother is released from prison, sending her brother tumbling back into mental illness.

When secretly planning the wedding she really wants, Faith stumbles across a church choir that challenges far more than her ability to hold a tune. She ends up joining the choir, led by the fierce choir-mistress, Hester, who is determined to do whatever it takes to turn the motley crew of women into something spectacular. She also meets Dylan, the church's vicar, who is different to any man she has ever met before.

What I love about Beth Moran’s writing the most is that she always manages to surprise me – including elements in her books that I’m not expecting, that are grittier and have a more emotional edge and I’m half convinced they’re simply there to break my heart except for the fact they fit into her stories quite perfectly. Beth always faultlessly manages to weave sad, scary and brutally honest themes into a story that at its heart is warm and funny and uplifting, in its own way. She crafts books that will leave you feeling good at the end but also aware that you’ve had to work for it a bit by seeing your emotions all over the place – which is a purely satisfying experience!

The Name I Call Myself surprised me all over again. Three books in, having read Making Marion and I Hope You Dance previously, I still never expect the stories to go the way they do, but I love reading them. I found this book to be quite character driven, and Faith, the main character, is completely fascinating. At the beginning, I was struggling to work her out but that was part of the charm of the story. Faith is different – there’s a lot more than meets the eye and she has secrets, and a family and past that was both shocking and sad. The way Faith is telling the story to the readers was full of character and made me feel like I knew her like I would a close friend. But there was always more to know about Faith and that’s part of the reason I just had to keep on reading.

Faith is engaged to Perry, which sadly means she is also marrying into to his rich, overbearing family, who would honestly drive any woman insane. Perry’s mum in particular, Larissa, has taken control over the wedding planning and she is in absolute nightmare. Faith’s own plans for the wedding include her mother’s church, but this sees her having to confront her own life in more ways than one. Especially when she meets Dylan…

Then there is Sam, Faith’s brother, and his story revolves a lot around his mental health. Seeing the past dragged back up for Sam had be completely shattered and his story really moved me.

I don’t want to take anything away from this book so I won’t. But do read it! My favourite aspect of this book (I think, it was hard choosing) is the theme of friendship. During the lead-up to her wedding, Faith finds herself joining the choir and that opens her up to a world where friends are made – time spent with women learning to be strong, kind to themselves as well as to others, and the power of friendship shines through the pages. There’s a lot to love about the theme of friendship in this book, as well as the individual and memorable characters that make up the choir. A lot of characters to keep up with, but that’s never really a problem. The author’s insight into friendship and the way she portrays this is warm and inspiring.

The Name I Call Myself is a book I was really sad to see come to an end. Beth puts her characters, and with that her readers, through so much over the course of a few hundred pages that in truth the book doesn’t really leave you once you’ve turned the final page. I’m still thinking about it now. The darker tones to this book especially are still on my mind, mostly Sam’s story, and I really think The Name I Call Myself had it all, a wonderfully engaging, honest and surprising story of family, friendship and the strength we all have within ourselves.

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