Author: Shannon Burke
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Book Description: “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.
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars
Mini-Review: This story set in the late 1970’s and 80’s is focused on three brothers. I would say this falls into the complicated families category. The Brennan family lives in a upper middle class neighborhood but are one of the poorest families. The goal from the beginning is for all the children to improve their personal situations, through education. At times this family is brutal. Their father is tough and is not afraid to knock his boys around if he is not meeting his high standards, but he obviously loves them. The boys are typical boys, in the house they have knock down fights and outside their home they protect each other to a fault.
The Brother Years is 100% character driven novel. Shannon Burke really captured the era these boys grew up in, and how brothers interact with each other. For me this was an endearing family story. I was rooting for this hardworking family to obtain the future they always dreamed of. At times there were difficult sections, but it is well worth the read.