Book Reviews

Family Portrait: In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks @annecater #BlogTour

It’s time to discuss the newest book by THE Michael J. Malone. I don’t know any other male author who masters emotions the way he does.

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Title: In the Absence of Miracles
Author: Michael J. Malone
Publisher: Orenda Books
Date of publication: 19 September 2019
Format: uncorrected proof
Source: Publisher

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again. With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood. For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.


Michael J. Malone is a real-life super-hero. Bye-bye Spiderman, Batman, and other clichés. It takes a lot more than a Lycra outfit to fight the big fights. Mr. Malone never shies away from a battle, and In the Absence of Miracles tackles heavy matters with tactful and efficient hands.

When his mother suffers from a stroke and moves into a nursing home, John must handle the changes, including the selling of the family house. There is no beating around the bush here. Right from the beginning, I felt a crack in John. Watching one’s mother struggle with the aftermath of a stroke is heart-breaking. The author perfectly caught this particular and painful feeling, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. Little did I know it was only the first wave of an ocean that would let life wash over me in unexpected ways.

A little box in an attic can hide a lot, including a brother! John doesn’t recognize his younger sibling on the picture he has found, which can only mean that their family hasn’t escaped the weight of secrets. They bring some families together, and tear others apart. I didn’t know what to make of John’s discovery. It almost felt too big to be true. Can a rose dwarf a tree? If you believe it can’t, let Michael J. Malone prove your otherwise!

What comes next is the spiraling obsession of a man to find his hidden brother with only a blood-stained shoe and little information. It soon becomes apparent than John has issues dealing with the situation. His job as a teacher suffers from his need for answers, and his relationships take blows as he turns inwards for clues which could bring him closer to the truth. The ups and downs John goes through are intense and somehow terrifying. As he keeps digging, old demons resurface, bringing our main character to the edge.

The result is a beautifully written account of a harrowing life story. You can count on the author to climb the highest mountains, erase the grey clouds, and show you what your mind and heart refuse to see. The portrait of a normal family shatters and each piece of glass cuts through John’s skin to reveal blood turned stale from love used in all the wrong ways.

When memories start flooding the empty space in John, it becomes obvious that there is more to find than a lost brother. But the truth always comes with a price.

Clever and poignant, In the Absence of Miracles gives a voice to a taboo subject. Michael J. Malone uses his outstanding talent to shed light on something we don’t talk about. We should. We must. His book is a cry in the night, a reminder that a silence can hide a heart-wrenching cry. I was a mess when I finished this novel. I was not prepared for the shower of feelings, neither was I ready to watch a man fall on his knees to learn how to stand again, stronger and with more hope than before.

There is a delicacy in the author’s writing that makes everything bearable, even the hardest things in life. I want to thank Michael for being bold and committed enough to give us a taste of a reality which hurts but can’t live in a box forever. Love wears multiple faces, and our relationships with each member of our family shape who we are, for better or for worse. In the Absence of Miracles is shocking, brave, and special in the best way.

The paperback is out Sept 19! Here’s where you can find it! Amazon / Hive

I would like to thank Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Michael J. Malone is the author who made me discover Orenda Books, and I couldn’t be happier to support his new novel.

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thumbnail_Michael Malone

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

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7 thoughts on “Family Portrait: In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks @annecater #BlogTour”

  1. Fab review! I’m still bummed I wasn’t able to join the blog tour, but I definitely can’t wait to get a copy of this fantastic story. Your review only made me want to read it even more! ❤ xx


      1. I’m sure I’m going to love it! I might even try to squeeze it in for #Orentober next month if I have the time… I still need to get a copy first though. xD xx


  2. I haven’t read any of this Author’s books But the cover of this and his previous ones reminded me of your reviews and how great you think his writing is. Are his covers a similar style?
    He sounds like a clever author to write emotion so well.
    Amanda xx


  3. Really liked one of Malone’s other books (which I read thanks to you 😉 ) so definitely curious about this. It’s amazing how he makes his books so emotional and it’s great that it was beautifully written as well. Excellent review!


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