Review: Sins of the Father by Sharon Bairden from Red Dog Press

A spectacular, genre defying, debut novel. A natural skill on display. An often tough, but ultimately involving story. This one will stay with you.

Available to buy direct from Red Dog Press

Sharon has written an astonishing debut, that is frankly almost impossible to review without ruining it. Nonetheless I’m going to try.

Sins of the Father follows a group of inextricably linked characters centered around Rebecca, her unimaginably tough life and the strain that puts on her mental health. Rebecca is brought up on the estates of Glasgow, exposed to the very worst of society from a young age which impacts her entire life. We first meet her at a very young age and stay with her into adulthood.

Sins of the Father is a tough book to place in a genre, it’s a mix of thriller, noir, drama, crime and even horror. In describing some elements of Rebecca’s experience and the abuse she suffers, Sharon uses language that describes sounds, smells, thoughts, emotions and leaves the rest to your imagination. The readers own head is one of the most powerful tools a writer has and Sharon uses it to great effect, rarely getting too graphic but leaving you in no doubt as to the horrors being experienced.

And I don’t use the term horrors to describe some of what Rebecca goes through lightly, there are times when this is a tough read, dealing with the long-lasting effects of abuse suffered in childhood. Going through this on the page though is important, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a story quite this brave before, as a reader you are challenged to face up to the fact that this is a reality for far too many people and you simply do not know what is going on behind closed doors or the respectable façade of a person’s public persona.

Sins of the Father is gripping storytelling written with undeniable skill. Opening with a metaphorical gut punch and going from there, it’s pace doesn’t offer any let up across its entire 300 pages. I’ve read and reviewed a lot of great debut books, but this has that rare quality of not feeling like a debut. Sharon has the confidence of a writer deep in to her career, of a writer with no fear. Having the sheer guts to pull this few punches in an opening gambit for a writing career is inspirational. Telling an urgent, engaging story is clearly what drives Sharon, there is no nod to commercialism here, this is a book that would simply not get published in the mainstream without a long-established author to provide some sort of cover, or without major changes to the character of Rebecca as an adult, I won’t say more on that as I risk entering spoiler territory, but needless to say such changes would destroy the overall impact of the novel.

Books like this are why I so much adore indie publishing. A challenging, gripping read with a lot of unexpected twists and turns, nods to multiple genres thus defying conventional expectations of a thriller. If this is what Sharon has to offer as a debut, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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