I don't read a lot of memoirs, but this one really got me. I read this in almost one sitting because I was so drawn into the feelings, the real honesty, and raw emotion of this story. It's about a hardscrabble family who live on the "right side" of Chicago, but are the "wrong kind" of family. It's about siblings and family relationships, written with a lot of heart, but not sentimentality. I found this a really worthwhile read.— Claire
From the acclaimed author of Black Flies and Into the Savage Country and co-creator of top-ten Netflix hit Outer Banks, a powerful new novel of class striving and the precarious dynamics of brotherhood in the Chicago suburbs of the late 1970s.
"In our family, there was none of this crap about everyone being a winner," says Willie, the narrator, who looks back on his teen years--and his nearly mortal combat with his domineering older brother, Coyle. In the Brennan house four kids sleep in a single room, and are indoctrinated into "The Methods," a system of achievement and relentless striving, laced with a potent, sometimes violent version of sibling rivalry. The family is overseen by a raging bull of a father, a South Side tough guy who knocks them sideways when they don't perform well or follow his dictates. Rivals, enemies, and allies, the siblings contend with one another and their wealthy self-satisfied peers at New Trier, the famous upscale high school where the family has struggled to send them. Evoking their crucible of class struggle and peer pressures, Burke balances comedy, tragedy, and a fascinating cast of characters, delivering a book that reads like an instant classic--an unforgettable story of the intertwining of love and family violence, and of triumphant teen survival that echoes down through the years.
About the Author
SHANNON BURKE is the author of the novels Safelight, Into the Savage Country, and Black Flies, a New York Times Notable Book. He has also worked on several film projects, including Syriana, and is the co-creator of the 2020 Netflix hit Outer Banks. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“A slow-burning meditation on how the nuclear family unit shapes a child’s understanding of the world. The novel is sure to overlap fans of Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye with those of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.” —Courtney Eathorne, Booklist
“Moving and deeply personal . . . While The Brother Years is very much a rich, character-driven novel, it is also an affecting and consistently challenging study on class dynamics . . . A stirring testament to the power of resilience.” —Bradley Sides, Chapter 16