"But I'm going to resist the temptation because I've learned the hard way just how destructive revenge can be. Even though almost every person here has treated me like the shite they leave behind in the lavvies, I'm going to rise above it and try to forgive you It's not your fault that I'm standing where I am now. I'm leaving Moristoun because I lost my self-control and there's nobody else I can blame for that, no matter how much I try to convince myself that McCall is the real villain. We're all on this island because we let ourselves down and I hope you can realise this much faster than I did. That way you can maybe make a much happier exit than me" Hogg (514-5).
Kevin McAllion's Moristoun was published in 2016 and is about 599 pages through digital copy.
Who should read this?
This story is a bit dark and twisty, so if you like the darker side of fiction this would be a good choice for you. It is also whimsical and full of magical elements that overlap with the darker aspects to create a unique universe of its own. If you enjoy a little bit of mysticism and magic, this could be the story for you. Dark humor, complex storylines that intertwine deeply as the plot progresses, and light that shines through darkness are all aspects that can be expected throughout this read. If any of those appeal to you, dive right in.
This novel is a complex story that intertwines individuals' tales throughout the course of nearly 600 pages. How do they all relate? Well, this town is the setting for a specific group of Scottish folks who commit suicide and wind up spending their eternal fates fighting to resolve what ever peace they could not find on earth alive. As a result, Buchan, Moristoun's resident lawyer who the reader follows throughout the novel, interacts with several others who died by suicide. These folks include McCall, Hogg, and Henderson, avid soccer fans who enjoy a good drink each night. He also encounters Jimmy and Brenda, the couple who wanted nothing more than a baby of their own. He also grows to know the librarians who guard The Book, the source of all knowledge anyone living in Moristoun must learn before having any hope of ever leaving the town of doom and punishment. He works for the Council who determine the citizens' fates and punishments as well as any Q99s who are living beings at risk of dying by suicide on the earthly grounds of Scotland. Buchan's job is to prevent these at risk souls from taking action and ending their lives when they feel most vulnerable. He is unable to prevent one woman from doing so, and as a result finds himself taking her baby with him through the portal back to Moristoun. Here he is able to convince the Council to let her stay as a Q101 until she is old enough to go off to study at university. She is welcomed into the loving arms of Jimmy and Brenda for her stay in town. On the other hand, Buchan has more success in securing the life of McSorely when life seems to be beating him down. However, it comes at a cost. He tricks McSorely into ridding himself of all ties to the real world with the intention of having him work as his assistant in Moristoun until he regains his confidence and love of life once more. The catch--neither of the humans who have not yet sacrificed their lives have any clue that all of the other residents of Moristoun are paying penance for having previously given their lives. While each person's story is revealed, it is clear that he or she suffered personal battles and would have to find his or her own way to make amends and find a ticket out of Moristoun and toward peace. What will be the fate of the living in this town of death, though? Can ones who live with death really ever emerge to live a full life once more? Or are they doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past? Will Buchan find success in his mission or will he have more answers to give the Council?
There is only one thing that really bothers me about this tale. That is the way in which suicide is discussed and portrayed. The idea that people "commit" suicide only for selfish reasons or for silly reasons that could have been resolved is somewhat disrespectful for people who have died by suicide. People really do not always feel that there is a choice. People who are fighting a crippling battle against cancer and choose not to continue fighting because the disease has developed to an unfortunate point of no return and feel hopeless are not judged for dying. So, people who are fighting mental illness and feel as though they have fought their hardest but that life is laying down the crippling pain that feels inescapable should not face the judgement that they do. Suicide is not a cowardly act that people only choose because they are selfish. People who are dying by suicide need support from loved ones that they can survive and to see that they will not be facing this crippling pain and agony on their own forever. This is a complex decision that weighs down on people struggling to face internal demons. While this may portray certain ideas and beliefs about suicide and its victims, I do not personally believe in any world that would punish people for dying by suicide. Rather, I like the idea of a medium ground that exists to provide people with the chance to make amends with the life that felt soul-crushing and damaging while they were alive. I like the idea that people can come to peace and then ascend to a higher place having found a way to feel spiritually balanced and at ease rather than having paid the price of losing their lives and then the punishment for doing so.
That being said, the start of the novel comes a little slowly, it does pick up as the characters' stories become so interestingly intertwined. The timelines seem a little bit confusing at first because the events are not revealed chronologically, but it does not take long to piece the stories together. Once the story gets going, it is hard not to wonder how their lives will unfold and how their fates will resolve. You worry for the characters and hope for their best. It is an interesting journey where you are rooting for characters so much that you take stock in whose soccer team should really be winning the games of the cup matches. I definitely enjoyed my trip to Moristoun experiencing all of the intellectual and spiritual knowledge that is offered to the reader through the characters and the plot, but I am certainly glad to have been a visiting guest rather than a resident of the town myself.
This novel is one of extraordinary creativity. I was taken aback by the concept that those who die by suicide may have the chance to make amends with what ever felt amiss in life while they were alive on earth. I like this because I feel that people who suffer so deeply should be able to feel the sweet shades of life and experience the good that they so patiently hoped and waited to find.
I also like the comment on society in terms of how detrimental technology can be and how bad people can make life in the world for one another. It is true that humans add toxicity to one another's lives with their disregard for each other's wellbeing and rude and hurtful words and actions. The simple actions that McSorely makes in his final moments in Scotland before going to Moristoun show how much of a difference one person can make on someone else's day. People can make simple actions that mean the world to someone else, but instead people tend to be so caught up in their own lives and interests that they do not feel the need to brighten anyone else's day. Also, the idea that we don't know what goes on in someone else's life and should not act like we know how they got to the troubling point in life in which they found themselves is so powerful and important to understand. Don't judge a book by its cover. Don't add negativity and hate in our harsh world; instead add compassion and understanding. Be the difference that you hope to see. If McSorely had experienced some of that compassion that McAllion depicts through his writing, his character would not have felt so alone or ready to die by suicide. He would have had hope in the world in which he lives and felt cared for and a sense of belonging. Additionally, technology has built a wall between human interactions and has destroyed the activities and interactions that existed before technology was the constant attention grabber in societies everywhere. It provides readers with the message that if people were to choose simplicity and kindness above all, there may be easier joys and happiness gained. McAllion does a phenomenal job sharing these themes and ideas consistently throughout his novel. His writing is powerful and effective while being funny and entertaining.