(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

J.D. Dolan, a writer and college professor, has written a moving and painfully frank tribute to his older brother John who died as a result of a gigantic explosion at a generating plant in Phoenix: A Brother’s Life. Throughout this beautifully written memoir, the author used metaphors of heat and velocity to describe the anger and estrangement which developed in the family.

Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb at the edge of the desert, the author idolized his brother John, who was eleven years older and taught him everything he knew about fishing, hunting, and cars. His older brother and sister Joanne became substitute parents for young J.D., whose mother and father grew increasingly remote from each other with the birth of each of their five children; the father retreated into silence and hostility while the mother retreated into a flurry of domesticity.

John, regarded as the lucky one in the family, was popular, good-looking, and worked hard to maintain his classic 1950 Chevrolet, his proudest possession. His luck ran out in 1966, however, when he was drafted during the Vietnam War. When he returned home, he was a changed person, bitter and moody. He took on the demeanor of his distant father who used silence and estrangement as a form of punishment toward his family. After a contentious divorce, John took a job with the Southern California Edison generating plant in the Mojave desert.

At the age of 28, while in Paris,...

(The entire section is 414 words.)