All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.
This is a very Irish book. (To me that is neither a good or bad thing, just a defining quality). I would say this is the more melancholic, less scary (because it isn’t meant to be slightly horror) sister of Other Words for Smoke.
Why would I say that? Because this is about a sibling relationship, but at the same time it is about generational “curses” or things carried down. Both of them touch on the Magdalene Laundries (which ran into the 90s) and some of the effect that had and still has on Ireland and the Irish. And there is in a way, some magic involved, some mysticism that envelops the story and makes it twist around trying to wrap you in it, but also in a way trap you.
However, those are the similarities. All the Bad Apples is more about who you are and what makes you a “bad apple” in the eyes of your family, and of society. Why are certain women considered bad apples? And are the good ones actually that good? It is a quest to try to figure out why there was a curse on Deena’s family and why it seems to affect only the women and the “bad ones”.
The writing was flowing and comfortable to read, however it was a very twisty thread of plot, going back and forth and then two steps back again just in case. While at the same time trying really hard to add extra mystery and mysticism (that’s what broke it for me, it became more of a drag on the story and kept breaking it for me rather than moving it forward).
There are enough “mysteries” as is without the need for new ones, but they still happen. They are foreshadowed well through the story and you can guess almost form the first sentence that introduces a character where they are going to end and some of their mysteries. (One of the big ones was easy for me to guess, however another of the big ones wasn’t something I would’ve guessed).
All in all, it was an interesting book that kept me wanting to know more and the connecting of the family story flowing forward was nice, as where the clues, but some parts of it felt overworked and that they were trying too hard. However, the important parts were very well conveyed, and it left me with a pondering mood after I finished. (I also summarised it to my husband, which isn’t something I do with every book, it means it made me think and/or feel).