The Brothers Silver
This story opens to introduce a family in the midst of a divorce. The parents are at each other at every turn, and the two boys, Jules and Leon (Lee), are having to deal with that. We are hearing the story at first from Jules’s point of view, and it is not a pretty story. Jules’s father, Ed, is a gambler and womanizer and mean as a snake to his wife, Ethel. She is clearly unstable, but how much of the blame for that belongs to Ed is yet to be seen. The boys fight with each other and treat each other badly. It’s clear they have learned the lessons of their parents. We are introduced to the extended family of cousins and aunts and uncles and the father’s girlfriend and are given stories along with the introductions making it hard to focus on the story of the main characters. The story is many, many years long, and it feels like it to the reader. None of the characters are particularly likable, making this a tough slog.
There are paragraphs laden with a description detailing every sight, sound, smell and filled with internal rhymes and consonance (“A muggy ocean breeze teases with its wheezes. It glides between the buildings, reminding me the seas are near. It fills the streets with sticky nuzzles and the puzzle of the clouds: will it drizzle, will it drench?”). In a paragraph about family photos, the author describes nearly thirty photos when three or four would give the reader enough. One paragraph of stream-of-consciousness description goes on for four pages! Chapters are told from different point-of-view characters, but it sometimes takes pages of reading to discover who the point-of-view character is. One chapter is a long conversation between two people with identical voices and speech patterns and no dialogue tags, repeating things they both know well, another chapter is told by Jules emotions at a hysterical pitch, and another is a letter, and so on. All are information dumps with virtually no action. One chapter is all questions. One might be a prose poem. Some seem to be stuck in just to experiment with language and don’t add to the story. This book is badly overwritten and could use some rounds of serious editing to get the writing out of the way of the story, not that the story is very compelling. Readers really don’t need all the detail — what Ed’s girlfriend’s breasts look like, how moldy the dishes are over and over, every thought Ethel expresses, every jarring thing family members do. It is exhausting to read. The last interminable chapter (half the book) tells the tale of a road trip that introduces a great many unlikable characters without really illuminating readers in any meaningful way.
|Owl Canyon Press
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