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Brother's Keepers: A Memoir

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  174 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
"You don't look like brothers . . ."
Peace activist and cofounder of the Enough Project, John Prendergast is known as a champion of human rights in Africa.
But the not-so-public face of J.P. is the life he's led as a Big Brother to Michael Mattocks. As a curious, driven, and emotionally wounded twenty-year-old, J.P. made the life-changing decision to form a "Big Brother/Li
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Published May 17th 2011 by Crown Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sharon Hallman
May 20, 2011 Sharon Hallman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Received this book today from Goodreads. Yay! I won. Can't wait to read it and I'm so grateful Thanks.
"I'm no millionaire. This is a different kind of rags-to-riches story, because there is nothing richer than taking care of my family. It's a rags-to-respect story, I guess." - Michael Mattocks

I'm left frustrated with this book. Unlikely Brothers alternates the story and viewpoint between Michael and John. Michael's story is a solid four stars - he really illustrates some of J.P.'s statistics he shares late in the book (1/2 of black males in their 20s are in the justice system, less than 1/2 of b
As I am in the process of creating my own youth mentoring organization, I was thrilled when I won this book through a goodreads giveaway and eagerly awaited its delivery. While I really don’t know how to explain the emotions this book evoked in a review, I am glad that I had the opportunity to read it and I thank Goodreads and Crown Publishing for sending me a free copy. I guess I wish that the book started at the end, so that I could have a better opinion of Mr. Pendergast, whom I found myself ...more
Krista Stevens
John Pendergast is a young college kid, before he becomes internationally known for his human right work in Africa, when he becomes a Big Brother to seven-year-old Michael who was living with his mother and siblings in a shelter in Washington, D.C. The two men take turns telling their stories as their lives weave through each other's, over a couple of decades. Their close friendship begins to fray as J.P. travels more frequently to Africa and loses touch with Michael who has turned to selling dr ...more
May 01, 2011 Leah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this as a goodreads giveaway. Reading the contrasting viewpoints of the "Big Brother" JP and "Little Brother" Michael Mattocks was very enlightening. I particularly enjoyed Mr. Mattocks' sections of the book. I appreciated his honesty about his life and also his insight into what he needed from his big brother, as opposed to what he got. This story clearly illustrates the importance of mentoring, even when the mentor isn't perfect. JP appears to be aware of his own limitations, giving ...more
I won this book through a giveaway here on goodreads. Overall, I thought it was a pretty decent book, however, I felt that Prendergast's sections were self-aggrandizing and full of name-dropping with celebrities he knows and politicians he's worked with. He seems to be a bleeding heart, but doesn't really effectively discuss WHY he was so connected with Michael and James. He even describes 'pawning off' two of his 'little brothers' onto his biological brother because he was distracted by other i ...more
Apr 30, 2011 Kristie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Thank you, Crown Publishing, for sending this book to me as a First-Reads!

I easily read this book in just a few days but it was not necessarily an easy to read book. The lives these gentlemen lived were anything but easy. I have to admire them both for what they went through and what they learned from their different environments but same difficulties- one in bullet filled streets in the 'hood as a young boy and the other in gun filled, poverty stricken countries as a volunteer.

The lives of John
May 21, 2011 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable and compelling book. I would give it five stars, but there are a few things that hold it back from that. The suspense between chapters, especially those of Michael, are compelling. The switch to the John chapters, especially the more political ones, are like slamming on the brakes and having my mind switch gears and start to work going uphill. I also had to refrain from wanting to get on a rant of what is wrong with the Prendergast family and John's psychological makeup. But, tha ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Meepspeeps rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to buy this book after reading a library edition. It is one of the best stories about "being there" for someone, especially father figures. There is also commentary about how Americans support peace in parts of Africa because one of their favorite celebrities does, but few celebrities take time to call attention to the generational poverty and racism in our own cities. Why is it easier to help those far away than those in our own cities, or to reconcile strained relations in our own fa ...more
Shannon Baas
This was an interesting book, but not one I'd probably recommend due to the language. It's a true story about the author and Michael Mattocks and their families. It's a very interesting story about how John(J.P.) becomes Michael's big brother and goes from there through the trouble and times they go through. My biggest complaint with the book is the vulgar language that is interspersed throughout the book. I realize much of this is the area and the culture, but I don't like books that are writte ...more
Sep 05, 2011 Aisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me fall in love with John Prendergast. His brutal honesty about the injustice and tragedies that he witnessed, his own shortcomings and selfish desires was powerful. Juxtaposed against Michael Mattock's story, I was hesitant that the story was going to be preachy invitation to be a Big Brother. Instead, it was honest and funny. It read as a coming of age story in which the lives of two very different men intersected.
Jul 07, 2011 Terri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first book I'm reading that I saw a write-up for on Good Reads. It sounded like an interesting story, and it is. If any reader is sensitive to vulgar language, one of the 2 main individuals in this book uses it often, an interesting way of writing, as you always know who is presenting their side of the story by the language they use.... I've now finished the book and feel I've learned a lot.
Jul 25, 2011 Kellygirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was told from two points of view from real people whose lives intersected at one point and then grew into something special. I wish there would have been more information from Michael's point of view. I watched the author John on the Tavis Smiley show doing an interview and hearing him talk about this book made me want to read it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes to hear stories from real people about real life.
Lori Tatar
May 01, 2011 Lori Tatar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlikely Brothers is told very candidly from the perspectives of two gentlemen whose younger lives couldn't have been more different from one another. The dual autobiography is told with a lot of compassion and very little self-pity. As they forged their relationship with each other they were able to come to terms with their relationships with others. What could easily have been a temporary friendship for a season turned into a lifelong brotherly love. This was very inspiring to read.
Jun 04, 2011 Bethgentner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always thought highly of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and this book cemented the value I place on the concept of mentoring and developing personal relationships. This true story is co-written by the two men whose paths connect via BB BS. Indeed each man's life takes a winding path, and the narrative provides a harrowing account of the coming of age of a young black man who does not have a father figure.
Feb 23, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very easy to read. I really liked how the characters actually talked like people. The book wasn't very formal, but I felt like it made it easier for a teenager to read. The story went back and forth between Prendergast and Mattock's point of view, and how they felt for each situation. I overall liked this book, and would recommend it to a friend.
Tracy Michelle
May 25, 2011 Tracy Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, read-2011
I received this through a first reads giveaway.

Unlikely Brothers is not a cherry-coated memoir. It is honest, raw, and heart breaking. At times it read like a lifetime movie (something you can't help when it really happens to you) but so much better. A must read.

Sorry about the short review but I didn't have much to say other than that everyone should read this.
Madaline Reddy
Jul 16, 2011 Madaline Reddy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just challenge yourself. Try to live a better life when you have all the disadvantages. Try to help someone who is disadvantaged. This book will take you there and then some! They've lived some heavy stuff and lived to tell about it. This book is amazing and both deserve a LOT of recognition for it! Worthwhile reading here!
May 25, 2011 Charity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well crafted interwoven tale of two men brought together by ones desire to "do good" and how over the years they impact each other even when there is a chasm between them. The book could have ended up being quite preachy, but for the most part they were able to side step this action and instead delivered a book meant to provoke the reader.
Jul 12, 2011 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was great, a good gift from Grandma. I relate to JP a lot. He was drawn to work in Africa and moves around a bunch, mentored a kid who lived in the worst part of Southeast Washington DC, and has a strained relationship with his father. It makes me want to get into mentoring again when I get settled.
Apr 23, 2012 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grown-up-books
This is a really good memoir. The voices are very authentic and honest. If you're offended by the f-word, you won't be able to get through Michael Mattocks' parts of the book, but it's so real to who he is and how he grew up. Fascinating insight into the inner life of Washington D.C.streets, drug dealing, US policy in Africa and more.

May 01, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book for free through the Goodreads First Reads program. It is a beautifully written and compelling true story about a relationship between men of very different backgrounds. I highly recommend it!
Jul 17, 2011 LK rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
66% of the book becomes dry, as Prendergast describes the distance between him and his little "brother." Nevertheless, the other 1/3 of the book is worth reading, as the initial unification and re-unification between the two will capture the reader's heart.
Janice Crespo
May 27, 2011 Janice Crespo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life is not always easy, but thru Big Brothers, you can some relationships that are not always easy, but strength abounds by their relationship. When hurdles abound in our lives, it's nice to be able to read books like this to know that the journey is more than worth it.
Jun 27, 2011 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: social change agents
Recommended to Andrea by: Shoreline Librarian
Prendergast is a real mover and shaker having worked in DC to intiate social change in Africa during Clinton's stint. I love his personal reflections on 'being present' in people's lives and his awareness of his failures and successes in making a difference in Michael Mattocks life.
Sep 07, 2011 Cassie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book takes you to a WHOLE different world within our country. It's interesting to say the least. It's a story of a guy taking a boy well more like a family of boys under his wing, and see how their lives play out.
May 30, 2011 Johari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was so honest and insightful. I love the faults, pride and side by side story telling. Kudos to working on this relationship; highs and lows without judgement are what makes a family.
Aug 18, 2011 Bev rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
I didn't get far into this book because of the language. Should have known, considering the subject, but tried anyway.
May 24, 2011 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Mattocks and John Prendergast tell the story of their two imperfect but earnest lives and the friendship that shaped them. Both men are bold and honest in the telling.
A grimmer look at drug-ridden DC than war-torn Africa, these two narratives are compelling together.
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John Prendergast is a human rights activist and best-selling author who has worked for peace in Africa for over 25 years. He is the co-founder of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity affiliated with the Center for American Progress. John has worked for the Clinton White House, the State Department, two members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council, ...more
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