Clay Carmichael

Clay Carmichael

Review by Carolyn Burns Bass

Family and friendship are tested with bittersweet symmetry in Clay Carmichael’s new YA novel Brother, Brother. Set in eastern North Carolina, but primarily on one of the many small barrier islands within the state’s Outer Banks, Brother, Brother features a wide cast of characters, some as gritty as sand and others as smooth as the polished pebbles that wash ashore.

Brother, BrotherSeventeen-year-old Brother’s real name is Billy. He dropped out of high school to care for his cancer-stricken grandmother who raised him in rural North Carolina after his mother was killed in a car accident when he was three. He grows into a compassionate, self-possessed young man who accepts his family background without great angst and concern. The story opens when Brother’s grandmother, Mem, dies from her breast cancer, leaving him to fend for himself, and setting up a mystery that sends Brother to the exclusive Winter Island in search of a twin he never knew about.

Twins separated at birth is not an uncommon trope in fiction. Carmichael uses it here to illustrate the power of love and nurture upon an individual’s character. Brother finds his twin on Winter Island, a spoiled rich kid raised by a powerful senator whom Mem had always distained. Brother had always thought Mem’s attitude toward Senator Gideon Grayson was based upon politics she disagreed with. Upon arrival at Winter Island, he learns there is more to the animosity between Mem and the Senator, and that self-respect is more valuable than money, position and power.

Scattered within this provocative story are characters fresh and familiar in the likes of Kit, a young woman who befriends Brother during his sojourn to the sea, Lucy the ice-queen in formation, and Jack, a the brother of his friend Cole, whom Brother is forced to bring on his journey when Cole abandons him at Brother’s doorstep. Just as family is explored in Brother, Brother, Carmichael uses these characters as flashlights into the nature of friendship. Even Brother’s dog Trooper gets his moment in the spotlight in this brave, literary novel.

From the author’s website: Clay Carmichael was born and grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C. She attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and graduated summa cum laude in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her picture books and novels have been translated into many languages. Soon, her novel Wild Things will appear in Italian, and Brother, Brother her newest novel for young adults will be published in Germany, translated by the talented Birgitt Kollmann who also translated Wild Things.

Carmichael lives, writes, and illustrates in Carrboro, N.C. with her sculptor-husband Mike Roig and an ever-growing number of animals.

Read the archived chatscript of the December 6, 2013 #litchat with Clay Carmichael here.

Follow Clay Carmichael on Twitter: @ClayCarmichael.

Review by Carolyn Burns Bass.

This is an honest review written from a book supplied to us from the publisher.