Come Sunday

( 11 )


"A wonderful new storyteller unleashes a soaring debut that sweeps from the hills of Hawaii to the veldt of South Africa." "Come Sunday is that joyous, special thing: a saga that captivates from the very first page, breaking our hearts while making our spirits soar." "Abbe Deighton is a woman who has lost her bearings. Once a child of the African plains, she is now settled in Hawaii, married to a minister, and waging her battles in a hallway of monotony. There is the leaky roof, the chafing expectations of her husband's congregation, and the

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Come Sunday

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"A wonderful new storyteller unleashes a soaring debut that sweeps from the hills of Hawaii to the veldt of South Africa." "Come Sunday is that joyous, special thing: a saga that captivates from the very first page, breaking our hearts while making our spirits soar." "Abbe Deighton is a woman who has lost her bearings. Once a child of the African plains, she is now settled in Hawaii, married to a minister, and waging her battles in a hallway of monotony. There is the leaky roof, the chafing expectations of her husband's congregation, and the constant demands of motherhood. But in an instant, beginning with the skid of tires, Abbe's battlefield is transformed when her three-year-old daughter is killed, triggering in Abbe a seismic grief that will cut a swath through the landscape of her life and her identity." "What an enthralling debut this is! What a storyteller we have here! As Isla Morley's novel sweeps from the hills of Honolulu to the veldt of South Africa, we catch a hint of the spirit of Barbara Kingsolver and the mesmerizing truth of Jodi Picoult. We are reminded of how it felt, a while ago, to dive into the drama of The Thorn Birds." Come Sunday is a novel about searching for a true homeland, family bonds torn asunder, and the unearthing of decades-old secrets. It is a novel to celebrate, and Isla Morley is a writer to love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In her poignant first novel, former South African magazine editor Morley explores a mother's grief. Abbe Deighton, part-time journalist and full-time wife and mother, finds herself living in Hawaii with her preacher husband, Greg, and precocious three-year-old daughter, Cleo, thousands of miles from her South African birthplace. Her flight from an abusive father and complicit mother is not accidental-her poet brother also fled to America-and when Cleo is killed in a car accident, Abbe re-examines the choices that have brought her so far from home. She and her husband become estranged as he turns to God and forgives the man who killed their daughter while Abbe descends into self-pity and anger at the unfairness of life. Their marriage suffers and Greg loses his job, forcing Abbe to turn homeward for financial help. Upon returning to South Africa, she confronts the ghosts of her family's past and the reality of her homeland's future. Morley convincingly depicts a grief-stricken woman without resorting to clichés, and though she telegraphs the resolution of Abbe's plight early on, the storytelling, line by line, is rather beautiful. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Each person's grief is unique and, as with an accident along the side of the road, everyone slows down to witness another's suffering, thinking, "That could easily have been me." Clearly, there is a market for books that provide this sense of vicarious suffering and ultimately empowering self-discovery, and this debut novel about grief and repurposing one's life after tremendous loss fits the mold. It begins with a sense of foreboding and a dark secret tied to the protagonist's family farm in South Africa (where the author was born). Abbe Deighton has since fled her homeland and now lives with her husband and young daughter in Hawaii. She chafes in her role as minister's wife and suburban mother and is unhappy without really being able to pin down why. When her daughter's accidental death tears her life apart, Abbe must return to South Africa in order to discover the truth about her own mother and to begin healing. The character development in this novel is quite engaging, but ultimately the plot is somewhat predictable. Recommended for larger collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/09.]
—Gwen Vredevoogd

Kirkus Reviews
South African-born Morley's confident debut explores the intense grief that follows a child's accidental death. Honolulu and Africa are the settings for this absorbing if at times overemphatic novel. The sudden loss of their beloved three-year-old daughter Cleo in a car accident puts a severe strain on Abbe Deighton's relationship with her husband Greg, a minister. Their marriage was already showing symptoms of stress, such as Abbe's flirtation with a colleague, but the couple's divergent methods of dealing with the pain and despair arising from their loss drive a deeper wedge between them. Abbe is prickly and more confrontational than Greg. During her childhood in South Africa, she watched her vicious, racist father terrorize and threaten her long-suffering mother, who prayed for release and eventually poisoned him. Now, Abbe needs to assign blame and can't accept Greg's desire to understand and forgive. A year after Cleo's death, Greg can take no more and leaves Abbe, who then finds herself forced to return to South Africa to sell the family farm. Events there take an implausible and eventually sentimental turn. Moments of drama, violence and self-sacrifice eventually contribute to Abbe's rediscovery of hope and generosity. Intense, unsparing, dark and often downbeat, but distinguished by an impassioned, poetic voice.
From the Publisher
"Jennifer Wiltsie's resourceful range and vocal skills bring this debut novel to life unforgettably...

She perfectly renders the dissolution of their marriage and Abbe's return to South Africa, where she confronts painful memories and essential decisions. Wiltsie's fascinating portrayal delivers on every level." - AudioFile


“Jennifer Wiltsie portrays the fury and raw pain of this potentially unlikeable character so that listeners sympathize. Wiltsie’s mélange of accents, from South African to Hawaiian, add to the author’s amazing imagery as does Wiltsie’s spectacular range of expression as Abbe travels from suffering to redemption.” – The Chapel Hill Herald

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781427207432
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Publication date: 6/23/2009
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

ISLA MORLEY grew up in South Africa during apartheid. During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English literature. By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but she left career, country, and kin when she married an American and moved to the United States. For more than a decade she pursued a career in nonprofit work, focusing on the needs of women and children. Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, their daughter, two cats, a dog, and a tortoise.

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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion
1. At its heart, Come Sunday is a tale of joy reclaimed. What is the source of Abbe's resilience? Which small moments gave her the grandest glimpses of hope? 2. Isla Morley portrays the experience of parenthood with a blend of unflinching candor and wise tenderness. How was Abbe's identity as a woman shaped by her relationship with her own mother? How was her brother, Rhiaan, affected by his father's shadow? How does the relationship between mothers and daughters compare to that of fathers and sons? 3. Discuss the novel's two locales. Do they share any similarities? What traces of South African culture does Abbe miss the most? Who is her greatest source of comfort in Hawaii and in South Africa? 4. What made Greg and Abbe compatible in so many ways? Why was it necessary for her to let him go? In what way was this decision destined to bring peace to both of them? 5. In chapter five, Abbe compares Greg to Sal, commenting that Greg is comparable to a playground sandbox, while Sal is like a merry-go-round. "It is hard to get hurt in the sandbox," she says. "After my father, it was all I ever wanted in a man." By the end of the novel, how does she feel about trust and love? 6. How is Abbe healed by returning to her homeland? How does she define "home" at various points in the novel, from the modest house she shares with Greg to the restored, fruitful farm of her youth? Where have you felt most at home, and most restored, throughout your life? 7. What were the most lasting lessons that Abbe learned from Beauty, both as a child and when she returned later in life? 8. What transformations took place in Abbe after she began to see her mother as a lion who would do anything to protect her children? What images best capture the spirit of your mother? 9. In emotional terms, what did it take to bring about the reunion with Abbe's brother, Rhiaan? What accounts for their very different approaches to life? 10. Near the end of chapter twenty, in the midst of the attack, Abbe hears Pepsi sing the words that give the novel its title. What does Sunday come to mean for Abbe? How does the media's depiction of the crime differ from the way Abbe experienced it? 11. What is the effect of the first-person voice that drives the novel? What is special about Abbe's perspective on the world? 12. How does Abbe combine rational thinking and faith to call into question the nature of God? Ultimately, what answers does she find? 13. In chapter twenty-two, Abbe and Rhiaan debate whether their mother's secret actions affected them. Abbe argues that "who she was influences who we are, how we act." Rhiaan thinks that's a moot point: "What you did . . . [was] because of who you are." Who did you side with in this argument? How much was your identity influenced by family lore? 14. As the author introduced you to South Africa, her birthplace, what surprised you most about its history and culture, and about life there after apartheid? 15. What aspects of hope are captured in the novel's structure, tracing the journey from Good Friday to Ascension Day? 16. How did you react when Abbe initially rebuked Greg for forgiving Mr. Nguyen? What leads to her change of heart? Describe the greatest difficulty you ever experienced with forgiveness. 17. What were Cleo's greatest gifts to those who knew her?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Isla Morley

    I haven't actually read this book, but the author i s my friend, and she is giving me advice on writing my own book, that I have been working on for awhile....she is so nice, and I look forward to reading her books!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2013

    Great book

    Its a really good book i go to school with her daughter and we are good friends.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great story but difficult protagonist

    Come Sunday, Isla Morley
    Nominated for the Commonwealth Prize of Australia

    Come Sunday is a story that explores the tragic devastation of a couple after their small child is accidentally killed. A seemingly matched pair, the two choose alternating paths to recover from their daughter Cleo's death. No one is free from the tragic ripples that spread out in the days after the accident.

    First, the novel alternates by showing the coping mechanisms of the husband Greg, a pastor in a small church, who dives into his work to find meaning in Cleo's death. At the same time, Cleo's mother Abbe handles her grief in a more withdrawn way: her crisis in faith is mixed with the crisis in friendship, and the blame she needs to bestow in order to cope. Strangely, the events lead her to recollect the abuse she and her brother had suffered in their childhood home in South Africa...memories she had long avoided. The death becomes the watershed of all the emotions she held in check for so many years, and creates a turning point for her. At times, her mourning is complicated between grief for her daughter and for herself.

    The different rituals and superstition that were present in South Africa, especially in view of bad omens, are at times fascinating. And yet they remain incapable of either preventing harm or in helping someone cope. In many cases, what they consider a bad omen is simply hindsight trying to find a meaning for the inexplicable.

    I really wanted to say I liked this was complex and relevant, after all. My only complaint was in the character of Abbe...the main character of the novel. Her behavior both before and after Cleo's death didn't seem realistic. At times she's described as falling apart, but her actions seem more purposeful than someone who is insane with grief. Her tone in different conversations appears off somehow, almost emotionless, and there's no other details that would reveal her emotionless state is part of the grief process. The husband Greg seemed too accepting of the loss. The disintegration of their marriage is easy to see coming. The most fascinating character to me was of Cleo's uncle, Rhiann, who felt more emotionally real. All said, it's a fascinating glimpse at both Hawaii and South Africa, and the complex course that emotional recovery takes.

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  • Posted August 11, 2010

    Beautiful and Touching; A book you won't soon forget!

    Come Sunday, Isla Morley's first novel, came highly recommended. Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, called it "A heart-wrenching tale of unthinkable loss and hard-won healing. This is a novel to savor." The San Diego Union Tribune dubbed it "An arresting, heart-wrenching novel... a phenomenal debut." It was a finalist for The Commonwealth Prize. And from the time I picked it up until I read the last sentence, I was not disappointed. Come Sunday was easily the best novel I have read in a long time. Isla Morley is a talented writer whose lyrical words, intricately woven story line, and colorful characters keep the reader coming back chapter after chapter and wishing for more at the conclusion of the last line.

    Come Sunday's protagonist, Abbe, is lost. She is lost long before her three-year-old daughter Cleo is hit by a car and killed. In trying to escape her past, play the role of pastor's wife and mommy, and succeed professionally, she has lost the girl she once was and the woman she hoped to become. This is not a book about the death of a child as much as it is a book about one woman's struggle to find herself and live again after the loss of her daughter upsets the delicate balance she has established in order to move day by day through life. This book will run you through the gamut emotionally. You will find yourself lost in Abbe's depression, bristling with her anger, and in the end, soaring as she finally finds hope enough to forgive and live again.

    This would be a wonderful book for a book club discussion. The book is set in both Hawaii and South Africa, both present and past (during Apartheid). It delves into Christianity as well as the spirituality of the native African people. It is the story of dreams and expectations as compared to the reality of living in an imperfect world. Materials to assist in your reading group discussions are available from the publisher's (Picador/Macmillan) website.

    Fair warning: There is some profanity in this book. I have read several reviews that condemn the book on this alone. In my opinion, the profanity is used to authenticate the dialogue of an alcoholic father and at times, the desperation and despair of a seemingly endless grief. I did not feel it was used prolifically or needlessly.

    I received this book from Picador in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts printed in this review are entirely my own.

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    How can you go on with life once your daughter dies?

    Abbe is a restless young mother living on the outskirts of Honolulu with her husband, Greg, the pastor at a small church. Their lives are suddenly riven by tragedy when their three-year old daughter, Cleo, is struck and killed by a car.

    As Greg turns to God and community for comfort, Abbe turns inward and reflects upon her own troubled past. Isla Morley brilliantly weaves the story of Abbe's grief with a gripping tale of her tempestuous childhood in apartheid South Africa - and how Abbe's father, a villainous drunk, held their family hostage for decades with his rage, until they finally began to plot their escape from him.

    Come Sunday, by Isla Morley, is a spellbinding drama about a woman breaking free of her grief and of her past, and what it takes to revive hope when all seems lost. - excerpt from back cover.

    My Review:

    In this wonderful story of what good can come from tragedy, we are immersed in the lives of the parents of Cleo who has just been taken from them at three years old. We are witnesses to what happens in the midst of loss and how each person handles the grief in a different manner. Greg, a pastor, feels that he has to hold onto God, while Abbe is the extreme opposite and wonders where God was the night Cleo's life was taken.

    This is a very moving novel in that you can see both sides of the tragic coin and loss being portrayed in their lives and even as Abbe tries to see the parallel in her own life as a child living with an abusive father in Africa. The choices of those around her and even that of her mother come full circle as the book comes to a closure and once more Abbe can see that Sundays do come again and with it hope is restore and life begins again.

    I received this book, compliments of Picador Publishers in exchange for my honest and humble review of this amazing book. It was hard to read about losing a child, being a parent, but it also allowed me the rare opportunity to feel the heartache each parent faces without having to live it in the real world. I think Isla Morley did an outstanding job at conveying this to her readers and would rate this book a 5 out of 5 stars. The book is available in paperback.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2009

    Beautiful Story

    This is a wonderfully written novel, compelling in its story line. The characters are real and tragic. It was a book that I hated to see end. The descriptions of Hawaii and Johannesburg are spot-on. I look forward to hearing from this author again.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009


    sad story

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  • Posted May 22, 2009

    You will NOT be able to put this book down!

    I LOVE this book!

    I smiled, I cried, I laughed, I winced, I blushed,
    I guessed.....wrong......I begrudged being forced to put it down.....
    I stole a sentence at a traffic light. I sighed, I remembered.

    I can't wait to hear more from Isla Morley!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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