Woiwode calls this novel a “companion volume” to Beyond the Bedroom Wall, and it returns to the characters and setting of that work. Beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, Born Brothers is filtered through the perceptions of Charles Neumiller; through his memories, he is seeking a meaning and purpose for his life. As elsewhere, Woiwode eschews chronological narrative, and the present is submerged deeply into the past. The novel progresses through various memories of Charles. To speak of a plot or setting is unhelpful; to force Woiwode’s uniquely fashioned version of family chronicle into such misleading categories is to misconstrue Woiwode’s vision—that lives do not neatly fit into prescribed, sequential patterns. Family members appear in a seemingly random way that shows Charles’s quest for an answer to the plaintive cry of his heart: Is there life after childhood?
A gifted raconteur and orator, Charles has followed his voice into a New York career as a “voiceover” in commercials and as a “radio personality” focused on small-town life. He is thus accustomed to creating illusions and re-creating forgotten, homely images in the minds of his listeners. In fact, he is incapable of conceiving of a meaningful world outside the psychic landscape of his own family structure. Having endured assaults on his marriage and having struggled with alcohol, Charles leaves New York behind for his beloved North Dakota. A suitable anthem for Charles Neumiller’s life can be drawn from his own musings: “Imagination is, indeed, memory—that is more profound than any fantasy.” The events and...
(The entire section is 673 words.)