The Brothers K

Inspired by this thread on favorite books, I took The Brothers K out of the library. I just finished it and I’d like to discuss with others who’ve read it.

I thought it was phenomenal. It was epic. It was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. The characters were deep, the themes resonated with me. I was born during the middle of the Vietnam War, and even though I was a child, the memories of that era stick with me.

It had its flaws though. Some of the correspondence seemed somewhat monotonous to me at times. I should mention that it took me three weeks to read, where it would normally have been one, because we have a new baby and my reading time is limited to short bursts right now…

So, what did you like about it? Dislike?

I wasn’t going to post because I’m only about 50 pages from the end, but what the hell. If I get spoiled, no biggie.

I’ll admit to skimming in a few places – not because I get bored but because Duncan sometimes chooses to switch focus at critical times. I’ll be all involved with Irwin in Nam or Peter in India and then bam, we’re back in Camas.

I lived in Seattle from 1967 to 1990 (worked at the U Dub for part of that time) and remember well the demonstrations (even marched in a couple). Duncan nailed that time perfectly. The scene with Everett and the lecturer (forgot his name) and their interchanges about revolution were eye-openers, probably my favorite part of the book.

What happens to Irwin is almost too painful to think about.

Ok, well, my biggest issue with the book happens at the very end, so I’ll wait until you finish it. Or until others come in to discuss it…

I thought this would be about that juggling troupe. Never mind…

First of all, I’m really glad you enjoyed the book, Yankee. I rarely recommend anything to anyone because I’m alway paranoid they won’t enjoy it the way I did. But this book I recommend as often as possible to anyone who will listen.

It’s been 5 years or so since I’ve read it and I’m ready for a reread. But what I remember liking most are Irwin’s school papers, which were absolutely hilarious, and the father/son baseball time. I have two kids who both play, and baseball is a huge part of our family, so this was really enjoyable. I also coincidentally happen to live about 5 miles from the paper mill so the setting was very familiar. If I had to pick a weakness, and it’s difficult to do without a reread, I would say Peter in India seemed the most disconnected from the rest of the story.

Yes, statij, I’m glad you saw this thread. I wanted to PM you but I guess I can’t do that if you are registered with “guest” status? Anyway, I did think the story with Peter in India was a bit disconnected, but I liked it anyway. As a lifelong Yankees fan, I loved the baseball stuff.

I also would have liked to have been given more about Kade. As the primary narrator his story was not developed as much as the other brothers.

As I mentioned above, the part that I didn’t care for was:

The reveal at the end that it was Laura, not Linda, who had been abused by her father. It seemed a bit like an easy way to wrap it up and make them forgive her for all of the religious zealousness.

Who was your favorite character?

Ah, the Flying Karamazov Brothers. I remember when they first appeared on That’s Incredible! with Fran Tarkenton and Cathy Lee Crosby.

Finished it last night. Southern Yankee, I didn’t care for that part either, mostly because it was unnecessary. I wasn’t surprised at the reveal. The fact that Hugh and Laura so adamantly refused to discuss Laura’s home life was clue enough. And I don’t think the kids needed to hear the details, even as adults. They had already forgiven her anyway!

And it didn’t really explain Laura’s behavior (after Everett’s dinner table prayer). She had been functioning just fine for a long time. She held it together. She was strong. One of her kids rejecting the church didn’t seem like enough of a catalyst to turn her into such a cold, unfeeling person. So that part felt contrived.

But I really liked the book. It’s gotta be one of the best books about families I’ve ever read. Parts of it were absolutely brilliant, especially Everett’s response to Bet, when she confessed to spying on Irwin and Linda.

Yes, one of the aspects that I think Duncan got perfectly was the idea that the family loved each fiercely, even when they didn’t always like each other.