Having recently and once again cast aside ‘Atlas Shrugged’ (70 goddamn pages from the end, mind you), I have begun reading Portland author David James Duncan’s charming novel, ‘The Brothers K.’
Three or four years ago, I read Duncan’s ‘The River Why’ (which I highly recommend), and consequently also purchased his book ‘God Laughs and Plays.’ I very, very much enjoyed ‘The River Why’ and have since wanted to read ‘The Brothers K’ (it had come highly recommended to me, by a number of people) but had never gotten around to it. At one point I even began to read it, got about 75 pages in, and abandoned it for no apparent reason, since I had been enjoying the read very much.
From what I had been told about ‘The Brothers K,’ this seemed like an appropriate time to delve into it, in hopes of learning a little, maybe growing a little, and definitely doing something besides sitting on the couch taking pulls off a pipe and watching TV on DVD.
As something of an aside, I should also mention that this novel is set in my very own hometown! Ahhh, Camas, Washington: formerly a small, somewhat lower-class (i.e.: trashy), smelly mill town (and this is more what the setting of the novel is), now a quaint, still small, upper-middle class suburb. All of the smoky bars and sticky-tabled diners and dusty antique shops have been turned into salons, boutiques, pricey clothing stores, and (in some cases) churches. Even the ornate single-screen theater that always showed inexpensive movies has closed down, from property owners tacking more and more money onto the rent until the business was driven out.
Back to the topic at hand! Thus far, I have finished about 1/3 of the book–Book One: Joy to the World! and Book Two: Dogmatomachy–and have just began to read Book Three: Gunshots.
The book has proved to be a very enjoyable read, which is in no way linked to the fact that it is set in Camas, aside from the occasional little twinge of hometown pride. Duncan writes in first-person, from the viewpoint of the youngest of the four Chance brothers, Kincaid (or Kade, for short). Kade’s narration is somewhat simple, juvenile, and very endearing. He almost exclusively recounts the everyday goings-on of the Chance family, especially his (and his brothers’) deep admiration for their father, a baseball talent whose chances were cut short by a bad thumb injury he received working in the paper mill.
Duncan allows the reader to watch the four boys (Everett, Peter, Irwin, and Kade) as they grow, and begin to shape themselves into different people, each with their own sets of principles, talents, and personalities. Their Bible-thumping, Seventh-Day Adventist mother also plays a large role in the novel, as the mostly-sweet and perhaps somewhat obsessively deranged matriarch of the family, as do their younger twin sisters, Bet (Beatrice) and Freddy (Winifred).
Thus far, the book is a captivating tale of family and small town life, the upsets of the ’60s and ’70s, and each family members’ battle with their personal religion and spirituality.
Stay tuned for other upcoming reviews on the matter! Hopefully as I write more of them, they will becoming increasingly concise, and maybe even say something worthwhile, someday.