Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review as part of the Legend 100 Club.
Publisher: Legend Press
Publication Date: July 1st 2016
Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe’s 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.
Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve’s crow, the dawn to Maeve’s dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage – all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.
If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved – a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.
Inspire by the author’s own experience with disability through her autistic sister, Owl Song At Dawn is a fulfilling read that tugs at the heart-strings and provides an outlet that gives insight into the lives of those suffering from disability whilst highlighting the differences in perception and society from the 1950s to today. Full of emotion, Sweeney brings to the reader and array of emotions surrounding love, death, family, and friendship that bring come together to bring this novel that makes you feel homely and at one with the Maloney family.
I am one of those people that has always been interested in things I don’t fully understand: space, religion, history. Disability is one of them. Having never really known anyone with a disability, I would say that I am at a loss as to how they live their day to day lives but understand that there is a perception about them that, to this day, still seems to fog the brains of society. Emma Claire Sweeney truly highlights the differences, yet similarities, between the 1950s and today’s society on how we behave, communicate, and – in some cases – ostracise those with disabilities. Sweeney gave me a greater understanding of those with disabilities whilst enforcing my own opinions that they are the same as any other human being who just need a little more care and attention. It was heartwarming to see the love, care, and attention received by Edie, Steph, Len, and the other disabled characters at the hands of people like Maeve, Vincent, Zenka, and many others showing the compassion.
The layout of the narrative and the different strands really help to gain a thorough understanding of each other characters. Though Edie is no longer alive in the present day narrative, we are frequently thrown into the past as Maeve is reminded of key moments in her life from scenarios in the present. It is through these flashbacks that we get to know Edie and realise how defining a character she is; she is what makes Maeve who she is today and has shaped Maeve’s life. It is Maeve’s compassion towards Edie and her will to help Edie progress past her disability that causes Maeve to never leave Morecambe and, though in these flashbacks it seems that Maeve almost begrudges her overall situation, it is present day Maeve who realises that she has lived a fulfilled life thanks to Edie and become a better person. Not only do these flashbacks help us to understand these characters who are no longer with us, but it helps us to understand how the character of Maeve has grown and developed since she as a teenager. Maeve uses these moments to clarify the truth that she has been avoiding all her life and develop even further in the present in order to accept who she has become and understand the changes that happened throughout her life and why.
As it has become clear, Sweeney really does present all too realistic characters with flaws, aspirations, and personalities that fit in perfectly with each character. Even Edie, who it becomes clear will never achieve her dreams of being on stage and suffers many setbacks throughout her short life, is a character that I became invested in through Maeve’s relationship. Maeve never leaves Edie behind, including her in everything that she does, sharing her with everyone and proclaiming to everyone how good she is. Maeve teaches her to talk in foreign languages and knows just the right way to treat Edie to make her life comfortable and fulfilling as possible. I’ve said this word many times already, but Sweeney really does present a heartwarming novel with close friendships that make you feel a part of the family.