Born Brothers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

BORN BROTHERS is a novel written with the intensity of poetry. Its narrator and protagonist is Charles Neumiller, whose consciousness the reader comes to share with overwhelming force. Much of the book centers on Charles’s childhood in North Dakota in the 1940’s, a wrenching family move to Illinois, and a painful adolescence; there are also extended scenes in New York, where, after college, Charles seeks work as an actor; Chicago, where he lives for a time with his wife and daughter; and, again North Dakota, to which he finally returns. From childhood Charles is marked by a sense of unworthiness and guilt--confirmed, it seems, by the accidents (several of them life-threatening) that continue to befall him. He is always conscious, too, of the difference between himself and his brother Jerome (who is Abel to Charles’s Cain).

BORN BROTHERS is a demanding book, but the demands are never gratuitous. The narrative frequently shifts in time, without prelude, because that is the way our minds work. The reader must be willing to go with the flow. The rewards are great: Few novels, in this year or any other, are as deep and rich as this story of failure and grace.

Bibliography

Chappell, F. “American Gothic.” National Review (March 24, 1989): 45-46. A favorable review of Woiwode’s novel that explores the book’s American roots.

Field, Michele. “Larry Woiwode.” Publishers Weekly 234 (August...

(The entire section is 585 words.)