Prior to the prologue in Redeeming Brother Murrihy, I’ve written:
“To my brother”
However, although I wrote the novel TO my brother, I wrote it FOR you.
Before I started drafting the book, five years ago this month, I copied out six pieces of writing advice by John Steinbeck to guide me. In these, Steinbeck told me to:
“Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
Many readers have been confused by my dedication, assuming I wrote the book for my brother, in honour of him. After all, it is a story about brothers.
But I did not write the book for him. Following Steinbeck’s advice, I wrote it to him.
So, why did I choose my brother as that one single reader? And how can I suggest that, by doing so, I wrote it for you, my “generalized audience”?
The answer is revealed in my first reason why you should read the book. The other reasons have been supported by readers just like you!
You should read Redeeming Brother Murrihy:
1. If you’ve never been to New Zealand. One of my primary purposes in writing Redeeming Brother Murrihy was to take readers into the heart of this country, deeper than where tourists go in terms of place and people. At the time of writing, I had spent fifteen years in New Zealand, living just off the tourist track in Taumarunui. Kiwis are my neighbours, not my hosts. This land has become my tūrangawaewae (place to stand), not a tourist attraction. My understanding of the people, the landscapes, the culture, and the spirituality of the place has been informed by my immersion here. My brother represents all who live outside of New Zealand invited into this understanding. But, while the choices I made in writing the story were influenced by him as my audience, the effects of these were also intended for my family, then all Nova Scotians and Canadians and North Americans and citizens of the world who want to experience a journey into the heart of New Zealand not advertised in the brochures.
2. If you’re a New Zealander. In his short time in the country, Conrad, the protagonist, does not always see Kiwis favourably, but he does, as Peter Grace wrote in NZ Catholic, hold “a mirror up to us as New Zealanders – showing us in some ways how we look to outsiders.” Even more specifically, Whanganui writer and artist, Christodolous Moisa, says, “This important book honours both the river and its people.” Proud Kiwis Abroad describes the book as, ”Skillfully written with great respect to our Maori culture and in-depth local knowledge.” And Kathleen Dixon tells us, “It’s always a pleasure to read about one’s ‘own place’ … Millen has done an excellent job describing the towns and countryside in a way both accessible to New Zealanders and to people who have never been here.”
3. If you’ve ever visited or immigrated to New Zealand. The hidden protagonist in Redeeming Brother Murrihy, is Frances, Conrad’s brother. He is the immigrant to New Zealand, just like L. Aubrey, who said of the book, “If you have ever immigrated to another country and felt lost as you acclimated with the culture and terrain then you will totally identify with this novel.” And Mark Stewart, who visited New Zealand just before the events in the book, wrote on Amazon.ca: “I loved this story for all the memories it stirred in me having lived and or visited all the locations in the story.”
4. If you enjoy Literary Fiction (whatever that is). Redeeming Brother Murrihy is ambitious – it models its narrative on that of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, where Marley’s journey up the Congo in search of Kurtz is emulated by Conrad Murrihy’s up the Whanganui River. Redeeming Brother Murrihy is also my response to the themes of Heart of Darkness, intended to be literary, philosophical, theological, and filled with allusions incorporating the influences of James K Baxter, Suzanne Aubert, Māori Culture, and many other literary and personal experiences from my own life. I’ve written a series of companion blog posts for those who would like to delve further. I’ve been pleased by reviewers like Moisa and others who have appreciated this aspect of the novel, including Cathy Speight of Cath ‘n’ Kindle Book Reviews who called it, “Absorbing … a book of many layers with surprises and revelations between each one.”
5. If you enjoy an intriguing mystery. Despite its ambitions, Redeeming Brother Murrihy is a simple story, a page-turner whose mystery unfolds in terms of both plot and theme. Many readers, like Kathleen M. Dassaro, have told me, “I HAD to find out what happened.”
6. If you enjoy a psychological study. In addition to his praise for the “haunting description of the Whanganui River” and the “amusing reflections on small town New Zealand,” Chris Brady says that Redeeming Brother Murrihy “captures the essence of a journey, a physical, inner and psychological journey that becomes life-defining for the central character” in a story “at once mystical and mysterious yet readily credible.” Even Kina, who criticised parts of the book, said that “the portrayal of Conrad is psychologically excellent.”
7. If you’d enjoy a stirring story about family. There is an emotional cord that runs through Redeeming Brother Murrihy, but it is not wound around Conrad’s love for his brother. Instead, it is based on his desire to please his dying mother. Tui Allen says, “I was gripped by the tension of the need for the search for the missing brother.“ The story is a stirring, emotional journey with a satisfying and cathartic ending. Sarah Knight says, “Few can write anything that will cause a person to be still thinking about it days later. Antony can.” I’ve been told by at least six women they cried at the end.
Not convinced Redeeming Brother Murrihy is for you? How about one last testimony from Annie, a reader on Goodreads?
“Quite possibly one of the greatest books I have ever read. Truly brilliant.”