Monday, May 16, 2005

smith's my brother's passion

A twelve-year-old boy struggles to make sense of the evil that is going on within his small town and within his own family after his older brother goes off to Vietnam. Dave adores his brother Glen, and when Glen leaves, Dave spends his time watching and observing his town “like God,” he says. He’s looking for something, anything, that will bring him closer to his brother while Glen is gone. Dave watches his father lead a strike at the local factory, observes the racism surrounding “that Jew,” and watches his brother’s “passion.” This woman, although never directly labeled as a prostitute, maintains relationships with many of the local men. Dave sees her being raped by his uncle, the man who owns the local factory. Not sure what to do (after all, he is just a kid), Dave keeps silent, but maintains his watch over her. Shortly thereafter, Glen returns from Vietnam, wounded, distant, and inconsolable. Dave cannot understand why visits to his brother’s “passion” can’t seem to bring Glen out of his depression. Smith has written a beautiful and lyrical coming-of-age story. The words paint a soft and subtle landscape around the plot and parallel the internal turmoil that Dave faces. Although the novella is set during the Vietnam War, the book could easily be set in today’s time. The tragedies that Dave faces are timeless.

(This book is currently nominated as a "Best of 2005")


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