Brick Mother

Neriste and Donna both work at the notorious Cedar Hospital Heathley, a secure psychiatric unit that is understaffed and underfunded – a place where doors are kept locked, where the staff carry panic alarms, and where even a pen has to be treated as a weapon. As both women struggle with their lives inside and outside the hospital they are drawn to Nathan Rivers, a patient who committed a terrible crime a long time ago. They, and others, are beginning to wonder – does he still belong within the walls of the hospital? SJ Bradley manages to weave the plot of a thriller around the most simple and understandable of human emotions. Our ability to empathise and our willingness to doubt are turned against us in this stunning debut novel that is unflinching in its portrayal, assessment and conclusions.


“At first glance this is pure kitchen sink. The tone is made out of damp, wet clothes, missed appointments, unhappy relationships, lack of money. But this miasma of mediocrity gradually resolves itself, through Bradley’s intricate and unseeable skills, into something absolutely horrifying." - Max Dunbar, 3AM Magazine

“Empathetic, serious, forgiving, ominous, tender, terrifying… Brick Mother follows the lives of ordinary people tasked with the extraordinary challenge of caring for the mentally ill. Human weakness is witnessed, measured and forgiven in the same breath. Bradley has performed the unlikely feat of inhabiting a cold government building with a nurturing human heart. A thoughtful, thought-provoking and mature debut.” - Mishka Shubaly, bestselling author of The Long Run

“Brick Mother, SJ Bradley’s gripping debut, takes us inside the heart of a psychiatric institution with neither sentimentality nor sensationalism, but rather bringing us the intertwining stories of real characters struggling with their lives, on whichever “side” of the fine line separating inmates from staff they happen to find themselves. I couldn’t put it down.” - Tania Hershman, author of My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions


Longlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize

Rights Profile

Rights Available
World, all languages

Original Language

Samples Available
Full text available in English



Publication Date

June 2014


Brick Mother on the Dead Ink Books website