Until that fateful afternoon, Skunk Cunningham had been a normal little girl, innocently playing on the kerb in front of her house. Rick Buckley had been a normal friendless teenager, proudly washing his brand-new car. And Bob Oswald had been a normal sociopathic single father of five wild daughters, charging furiously down the pavement. Then Bob was beating Rick to a bloody pulp, right there in the Buckley's driveway, and life on Drummond Square was never the same again.
This is the blurb from Daniel Clay's amazing novel, Broken, which might be the best study of the Butterfly Effect to date.
The events described above give the starting signal to a series of events that are so horrible, so funny, so unbelievable and yet so real it is alarmingly easy to relate to them.
The main focus lies on the three families involved in the drama on Drummond Square: the Cunninghams, which you will soon enough consider the "normal" family in this book; the Oswalds, a family so horrible and real and disgusting it is pain and masochistic pleasure in one to read about them; and the Buckleys, the family around Rick - who is later nicknames "Broken Buckley", which are struck by something you can only describe as a psychological curse - Rick can't cope with the violence that has been inflicted on him and goes, for lack of a better word, crazy.
As well as showing a great example of the Butterfly Effect ("a butterfly farts somewhere and a hundred miles away an avalanche kills a hundred people"), this book also has an interesting take on the, let's call it "A-bomb syndrome". In all its terror, this first stepping out of line (here done by Bob Oswald) is by far not the worst thing to happen in this book. I'll try not to give too much away, but the book does end with several people dead - and still, in the end, everybody involved can say "not my fault", because it is only the mix of all these different people taking action that leads the final mess.
Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski from the Independent said: "Read this book; don't run away from it", and with that he basically takes the biscuit - yes, this story is scary and brutal and maybe will make you doubt your own morals - but isn't that a good thing? If a writer is so strong that you - well, me - don't know if you're able to "pick a side".
Maybe this is why this book hits so close to home for me - because I do often feel like I have to pick sides, when all you should really do is stand by and watch things unfold.
Then again, Broken might even prove you wrong about that.