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The brothers K by David James Duncan

The brothers K (original 1992; edition 1992)

by David James Duncan

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1,376518,470 (4.43)103
Title:The brothers K
Authors:David James Duncan
Info:New York : Doubleday, c1992.
Collections:Currently reading (inactive), To read
Tags:baseball, family, Vietnam, to-read, hoopla

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The Brothers K by David James Duncan (1992)

  1. 00
    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both deal with similar themes

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I promised myself I would keep this simple, that I would state the essence of this book for me and then stop. Thus: The author reaches inside you to grab your heart, plays an intense game of rugby with it, and then makes you happy your heart was able to serve a key role in the endeavor. There was a point where tears came to my eyes just looking at the book cover. Seriously. But, guys, this is me. For everything that is exemplary about this book -- I don't recall ever giving so high a rating to an obviously flawed book -- but it does have its quirks. Some are quite minor, at least to many readers, such as the author throwing out total falsehoods that served no obvious purpose. Example: the incidental mention of an actual elected official at a specific time that wasn't actually elected until several years later. I know. I worked for that newly elected official. (Imagine a fictional book about one of the ongoing Iraq Wars in which a participant writes a letter to President Trump. Got the idea?) My second and more significant complaint is the ending, both the dramatic -- but not at all unexpected -- story that supposedly serves to explain why all the prior drama took place, plus the actual last scene, which is not written in sync with the rest of the book. I know there are folks -- many folks -- that think it sacrilege to state any fault about such a lovable book. If you are one of those people, read the book. It will help you deal with it. If it doesn't, you didn't get the point of the book, IMHO. ( )
  larryerick | Mar 3, 2019 |
If this isn't one of the Great American Novels, I'm not sure why not. It's an epic family saga. It's huge in its scope and its challenge, and in its impact.

I think I may prefer[b:The River Why|23196|The River Why|David James Duncan|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1167391170s/23196.jpg|993607] by the same author, but both are fantastic novels. This is more grand; Why is more philosophical.

I'll reread this one more than once (as I have with Why). Highly recommended. ( )
  patl | Feb 18, 2019 |
Why did I read this strange book from 1992 that is a lot about baseball? Because I couldn’t fit my latest book by an author whose surname begins with a D onto the TBR shelf, and removing this one made room for the new one. I didn’t understand a word about the baseball, and before long started skipping huge chunks of a metaphor that seems overdone to me, but I rather liked the picture that emerged of an underprivileged American life that seems rich and fulfilling all the same.

Feminists beware: this story is about a family of six children, but the two girls are definitely an afterthought, perhaps because they don’t play baseball. (Or do they?) Well, fair enough, the book is called The Brothers K, so we can’t say we weren’t warned…

The title is a clear allusion to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov which I read a million years ago when I was far too young to make anything of it. I needed Wikipedia to remind me about its plot:

Composed of 12 “books”, the novel tells the story of the novice Alyosha Karamazov, the non-believer Ivan Karamazov and the soldier Dmitri Karamazov. The first books introduce the Karamazovs. The main plot is the death of their father Fyodor, while other parts are philosophical and religious arguments by Father Zosima to Alyosha.

and its themes:

The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th-century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, judgment, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia, with a plot which revolves around the subject of patricide.

Well, The Brothers K is a modern American version with four brothers instead of three, (plus two largely irrelevant sisters as noted before) and the patricide is more a case of a father’s spirit being killed by the way his ambition and talent as a baseball player is compromised by his circumstances. His life is one of drudgery as one of the working poor, made more unbearable by his wife who is a fanatical Seventh Day Adventist.

This fanaticism is the source of a split within the family, and the Vietnam War is the catalyst for its tragedy. Three of the brothers reject Adventism, but Irwin remains devout into adulthood. There is irony, then, in that of them all, he is the only one who gets drafted, because apparently (who knew??) Adventists were automatically granted the status of Conscientious Objectors and were exempted from the draft. Brothers Peter and Kade win university scholarships to achieve endless deferrals, and Everett flits over the border to Canada, but the fanatical Elders at the church take out their resentment of the unbelieving brothers by rejecting poor dopey Irwin as one of their own, partly also because he has taken a vulnerable young woman under his wing and (you guessed it) got her pregnant. So expelled from his religious community, off Irwin goes to be a grunt in Uncle Sam’s army, where it turns out that, well, yes, he really is a conscientious objector and that causes enormous trouble with long-lasting effects.

Once I sifted out all the stuff about baseball (and there really is far too much of it) it’s a satisfying novel....

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/05/20/the-brothers-k-by-david-james-duncan-bookrev... ( )
  anzlitlovers | May 19, 2018 |
This is quite a book to get through. I'm not really into baseball (which is discussed a lot), but I love this book. Really, I just love this author. (I'm not so much info fishing, but I loved The River Why.) Duncan creates a complex and very detailed world with a family that is at times funny, likable, maddening, endearing. It will make you laugh at times, and it might make you cry. One of my favorite parts is the similarities between the scene at the beginning of the book and the end of the book - with a child sitting on his father's lap. I love how it starts and ends with that. It brings the book full circle for me. Again, it's a lot to read! But it's well worth it. I've read it twice, and will probably read it again some day. ( )
  aimee | May 17, 2018 |
The Brothers K by David James Duncan - Baseball. Family. Vietnam. Religion. Throw them together and, Oh, Boy! Fun read for first third w/ great descriptions of setting, characters and baseball (even for the ignorant game watcher.) The depiction of the 60s was difficult to read because while I lived during those times, I was in my early teens. The decisions and their consequences the brothers made were, at times, difficult to read. The final section was able to bring many of the family issues to an end, without "pie in the sky". Great love for each other, even with differences among them, is the most important virtue for any family.
Prayer given by Peter at Papa's wake (p.623): "Give us grateful hearts...our Father...and make us ever mindful of the needs of others. Through Christ, Papa's and Mama's Lord, amen. And through love for each other, amen. And through our sufferings, if that's what it takes, and our romances, our good housekeeping and our ball playing, our friendships and our enemyships. Whatever works best, our Father. Make us mindful through that. It's time to eat now. That's where you'd end this prayer, Papa, so that's where I'll end it, too. There's nothing much left to say but the obvious anyhow. Which is we loved you. And always will. Amen." ( )
  sraelling | May 7, 2018 |
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Papa is in his easy chair, reading the Sunday sports page.
There are kinds of human problems which really do seem, as our tidy expressions would have it, to ‘come to a head’ and ‘demand to be dealt with’. But there are also problems, often just as serious, which come to nothing that we can recognize or openly deal with. Some long-lived, insidious problems simply slip us off to one side of ourselves. Some gently rob us of just enough energy or faith so that days which once took place on a horizontal plane become an endless series of uphill slogs. And some- like high water working year after year at the roots of a riverside tree- quietly undercut our trust or our hope, our sense of place, or of humor, our ability to empathize, or to feel enthused, and we don’t sense impending danger, we don’t feel the damage at all, till one day, to our amazement, we find ourselves crashing to the ground.
I wish I’d had the love, the wisdom, the empathy, or even just the raw curiosity to try and find out, back in the mid-sixties, why Mama would storm off the way she did. She always went to stay with her brother and his wife, outside Spokane. She always left in such terrible hurt and anger that it seemed she would never return. And she always came back, calmer but basically unchanged, after three or four days. I’ve learned enough in the years since, to know that she was leading a life as intricate and dramatic, as painful, and as worthy of respect as my father’s. But this paragraph is revisionist. Mama’s absences were a relief to me, her returns a mild disappointment, and unlike Peter, I had no great curiosity about the motivations of either. I felt at times that she loved me. I also felt, almost constantly, that she disliked me. And I was satisfied to reciprocate. It damaged us. But that’s the way it was.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 055337849X, Paperback)

Finally in trade paperback, complementing  Bantam's new release of River Teeth  and our consistently bestselling edition of  The River Why, here is The  Brothers K, a lyrical and lovely novel of  family.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This novel spans decades of loyalty, anger, regret, and love in the lives of the Chance family. Here there is a father whose dreams of glory on a baseball field are shattered by a mill accident, a mother who clings obsessively to a religion as a ward against the darkest hour of her past; and four brothers who come of age during the seismic upheavals of the sixties and who each choose their own way to deal with what the world has become.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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