Our Fathers – Rebecca Wait

Published by: Riverrun
Pages: 384
Date released: 28/01/2021
Date read: 24/04/2021

What kind of man kills his own family?

When Tom was eight years old, his father took a shotgun and shot his family: his wife, his son and baby daughter, before turning the gun on himself. Only Tom survived.

He left his tiny, shocked community on the island of Litta and the strained silence of his Uncle Malcolm’s house while still a young boy. For twenty years he’s tried to escape his past. Until now.

Without knowing how to ask, he needs answers – from his uncle, who should have known. From his neighbours, who think his father a decent man who ‘just snapped’. From the memories that haunt the wild landscape of the Hebrides.

And from the silent ones who know more about what happened – and why – than they have ever dared admit.

After a period of reading what I call “happily-ever-after” books, I returned to my favourite nitty-gritty, not particularly uplifting genre, starting with Our Fathers by Rebecca Wait. I devoured it in about five hours, cover to cover.

We meet Tommy, now in his 30s as he returns to his childhood home in the Outer Hebrides. He hadn’t been to the island for many years, not since his father had murdered Tommy’s mum, brother and baby sister, before killing himself, leaving Tommy the sole survivor, at eight years old, hiding in an upstairs cupboard.

This book explores the guilt and anger he feels, the worry he will turn out to be like his father, and the full spectrum of emotions felt by his uncle Malcolm and a host of other island inhabitants. Everything about this book is subtle and perfectly written. Even the description of the heinous act itself is not shouted about. It is sensitive and carefully placed that makes it even the more haunting.

Not the most uplifting premise of a book I admit, but so beautifully done. I can’t imagine it’s easy writing about such a sensitive subject if you don’t have personal experience (and I hope to God there’s no personal experience), but Rebecca has chosen every word perfectly. You can hear the waves crashing onto the shoreline, you can feel Tommy’s anger coursing through his body, and you can see the little house painted with blood.

It’s a haunting book, one I hope will stay with me for a long time.

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