Set in Scotland in the 1950s, The Skye in June is a moving story of a devoutly Catholic Scottish family following the birth of their fifth daughter, June. Patriarch Jimmy MacDonald is brusque, selfish and abusive, and it makes his later moments of tenderness and affection less believable for their depth and sincerity. Wife Cathy is a tired woman who shows bouts of strength at times, but is too often incapacitated by her depression to be an effective long-term advocate for herself or her children, particularly June, the daughter with whom we become most familiar and whose psychic visions and conversations with ghosts are either ignored or met with punishment.
Immigrating to San Francisco in search of a life away from predominantly Protestant Glasgow, the move begins a series of upheavals within the family as their old ways clash with new influences.
The author writes in a minimalist style that suits the story of the family’s early adversities which they face with typical Scottish stoicism. Although there are a few instances where character behaviors seem untrue, it is ultimately a moving and believable story, not (merely) for its credible handling of intuitive abilities, but for its convincing portrayal of a family in which growth only comes by squarely facing the past and accepting all of its truths.
Reviewed by Leian Welch