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The Brothers K

4.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,474 Ratings  ·  1,456 Reviews
Duncan took almost 10 years to follow up the publication of his much-praised first novel, The River Why, but this massive second effort is well worth the wait. It is a stunning work: a complex tapestry of family tensions, baseball, politics and religion, by turns hilariously funny and agonizingly sad. Highly inventive formally, the novel is mainly narrated by Kincaid Chanc ...more
Paperback, 645 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1992)
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Kim East of Eden is definitely a good one and has some similarities. I also think A Prayer for Owen Meany would be good after this.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve
Nov 13, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing
With an average rating of 4.40, it’ll be hard to argue that this book is under-appreciated. But that’s precisely what I intend to do. To bolster my case, I’ll be using graphs to display falsely precise measures in an attempt to gain credibility. The real goal (apart from the gimmick) is to highlight the mix of traits this gem of a novel possesses, the combinations of which are rare and enticing. For instance, many books are either strong on plot or strong on character development, but not so man ...more
Summer
Jan 31, 2008 Summer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers.
Shelves: favorites
Okay. I have spent a lot of time trying to formulate a persuasive review for this book.

I could tell you this: that everyone I've ever recommended it to who has read it has really, really loved it. Many of them have bought extra copies for people they want to recommend it to. Many of them have given this book to their parents, their brothers, and their best friends.

I could tell you this: that it is each of my parents' favorite novel as well, and that one of my most deeply imprinted memories of t
...more
Dolors
Apr 25, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone in need of inspiration
Recommended to Dolors by: Steve Kendall
It may be different for other people, but we in our green youth have to settle the eternal questions first.
Ivan to Alyosha Karamazov

Let's get clear, The Brothers K struck me out.
There are books which tell a story and then there are others, like The Brothers K, whose story resonates deep inside you in response to a call within the remotest nook of your inner being. Either as an iron hand clutching relentlessly at your bowels or as a scorching eruption of pure and unadulterated love, the novel
...more
Melki
Jan 07, 2014 Melki rated it it was amazing
This was a very good book - worthy of the highest rating and all the acclaim it has garnered. Though basically the story of a family's struggle to cope with changing times during the turbulent 60s, I don't recall ever reading a work of fiction that better explores the consequences of religious extremism on family life. That's serious subject matter, but the book is actually very funny with several laugh-out-loud moments.

The novel features a mother who is a strict Seventh Day Adventist and fanati
...more
Devin Bruce
Oct 12, 2007 Devin Bruce rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters.
Shelves: fiction
The Brothers K is one of the best books I've ever read. This is the deceptively complex story of an American family. A mother, father, four sons, and two daughters, growing up in the 50s and 60s. Their childhoods shaped by the family's two passions: baseball and religion. Their adulthoods shaped by the family's own small bundle of insecurities and conflicts, and the overwhelming nightmare of Vietnam. I'm a Canadian agnostic who doesn't like baseball, and I loved it. The story is brutally honest ...more
Lisa
Jun 08, 2007 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who values incredible writing
I've read this novel twice, and it only *just* got edged out by The Corrections as my favorite book of all time. Like Franzen's novel, this is one of those mystical "crossover" books -- great fun for both boy and girl readers. But while Franzen's writing is crystalline in quality and psycho-putrid in tone, Duncan's novel is, yes, a masterpiece, both in its style and in its ability to convey emotionally such a wide range of family successes and disappointments. It's some of the most inventive, ar ...more
meosima
Nov 16, 2008 meosima rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1961-present
Okay. I didn't love this book. I wanted to. I'd heard great things. But I didn't. So sue me!

I know this is going to sound really lame, but here's the first thing: LOTS of baseball. I mean, I'm not one to usually be bothered when the basic subject matter of a book is something I'm not super interested in. But ... so it is this time around. I felt the book was often bogged down in explanation of the family's history with baseball, the history of baseball in general ... and I just didn't want to he
...more
Teresa
Jan 25, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing
It may be different for other people, but we in our green youth have to settle the eternal questions first. (Quote from "The Brothers Karamazov" used to head a chapter in this novel.)

I started this book after finishing The Art of Fielding. Not wanting to leave that world, I thought this book would be a good follow-up; and though this novel is an American (especially of the Pacific Northwest) epic, while the other is an American (specifically Midwestern) sliver of time, I was right. Here was anot
...more
Gloria
Oct 03, 2012 Gloria rated it it was amazing
The review below (which was written 5 months ago) still is anemic, but for the life of me, I am just way too intimidated to write a review for what remains my favorite novel.
I've never had a book toss me between laughter and tears the way this has (literally-- and I am NOT someone prone to histrionics. Seriously).
So, the lame review stands.
And my adoration of David James Duncan increases with each read.

________________________________________

Sometimes I don't even want to review a book.

You know
...more
John Lauricella
Nov 22, 2014 John Lauricella rated it did not like it
The praise that this novel continues to attract mystifies me. Its protracted, rambling narrative about the various members of a wholly uninteresting family felt phony to me from its first word. Only a long list of laudatory reviews kept me reading in the hope that The Brothers K would get better. Every seventy pages or so, it seemed it was getting better and soon would become very good, indeed--at which point the author stumbled-in yet again with a fresh inanity to destroy the mood, the moment, ...more
Gloria
May 05, 2012 Gloria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Sometimes I don't even want to review a book.

You know how it is. You read it. You think, "Eh. That was okay, or pretty good-- or yes, I liked it but I have nothing more to say on the subject."

I'm hesitant to write a review for this book.
But for none of the reasons listed above.

My fear is that any words I attempt to use will only detract from the beauty of Mr. Duncan's already flawless prose-- which, in my opinion, should speak only for itself.

My friend Les said he's never been able to give a def
...more
James Murphy
Sep 28, 2012 James Murphy rated it it was amazing
Remember what it feels like to fall in love? Better, remember how exciting was the immersion into the love of this novel or that novel when you were younger? Remember falling in love with Siddartha? Or with Even Cowgirls Get the Blues? Remember how exciting the first read of Catch-22 was, or Gravity's Rainbow? To read The Brothers K is to experience all that again, and to be younger. It's a novel to love. It's one to remember fondly and to bask in having read it. About halfway through I began to ...more
Patrick Brown
Mar 18, 2008 Patrick Brown rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody looking for a good story, without any sort of postmodern shenanagans
Recommended to Patrick by: Robert Barnett Newman
What a book. Here's another book with problems, sometimes big problems, involving voice and narrative perspective. And you know what? I didn't care a lick. It's a terrific read, just bravado storytelling. The term page-turner gets thrown around a lot, but this is the real thing, the genuine article.

This is the saga of the Chance family (see, Duncan lays it on pretty thick everywhere in this book, including the characters' last names), told in detail, from the narrator's earliest childhood memor
...more
Rick Slane
This is a kind of coming of age plus family saga dealing mainly with the years 1950-1980, more specifically the writer calls the period from the Kennedy assassination to the Nixon resignation the darkest in modern American History. Someone else said the book is not about baseball but there's baseball in the book. There is also religion & war. I recommend this novel to family members of anyone who grew up in the 1960's United States. The first half is fun to read but as the brothers near adu ...more
KatieMc
Sep 13, 2015 KatieMc rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: baseball loving Jonathan Franzen fans
So it's fall and I decided to read a baseball themed book. Baseball is one of those sports that is a strange blend of physical, psychological, and zen and I think it makes for a good story backdrop. I had no idea I how fantastic this would be.

The Brothers K is the great American novel of the late 20th century that you have never read. What happens when you mix a baseball playing father with a Seventh-day Adventist mother? To start, you get six kids, four brothers and twin sisters. Throw into th
...more
Liza Fireman
May 21, 2016 Liza Fireman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-from-shelf
One of the best books that I have ever read! And as such, it is very hard to describe. Basically, I just want to say: "Read this book, it is so awesome. It deserves 6 stars out of 5". This book excels on so many dimensions - it is not a story, it is a life story, an enchanting one, and it will make you shed tears, and laugh out loud, and fill with anger, and awe, and your heart will wrench and expand, back and forth. The Brothers K is brilliant. It is also very long, but it is flying (too quickl ...more
Davie Bennett
Nov 02, 2008 Davie Bennett rated it really liked it
I am savoring this, that's for sure. I reached page 200 today, roughly one-third of the way through. It isn't a book that I feel good about reading on a quick trip on the bus or for five minutes while I'm waiting; I want to give it serious attention and devotion when I pick it up. It isn't a difficult or demanding read, per se, but challenges you to be there, in the family, in the moment, in order to be rewarded for your efforts. That's what I think so far, anyway.

Last night I read a passage tha
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 04, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Katrina from Misfit Readers
Short summary right at finishing: This was a wonderful book. I don't even care that it had baseball in it and that sometimes I needed to skim those parts. This novel about a family going through life, in the 1960s in Camas, Washington, and the characters are so vibrant and real I may never forget them. Highly, highly recommended.

I'm hoarding quotations after the spoiler cut, but I'm not prepared to fold them into a longer review quite yet.
(view spoiler)
...more
Jess
Apr 15, 2008 Jess rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Megan K, Ivan, Mandy
My boyfriend gave me this book as a birthday gift. I was initially worried I wouldn't like it, thinking of how awful it would be if something he loved wouldn't be something I loved. But even if it weren't about baseball, family, love, and how reason and religion are adversaries whose battles lay bare the fault lines in each (some of my favorite topics), I would love it for how it sprawls into a real world in your mind as you read it so when you close the pages, you miss the characters, just as y ...more
Bram
Feb 13, 2009 Bram rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I thought I should go back and say a few words about this book because it is, in fact, the one that brought me back to literature after more than a half decade of languishing in an overly-earnest realm of nonfiction, "real life" only. My brother gave me this baseball-riveted, family demi-epic as a birthday present last year, and thankfully it arrived with a verbal "won't disappoint" label pronounced enough to overcome my fictional apathy. One year later and I'm as obsessed with 19th century Russ ...more
Stephanie
Aug 14, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
I cannot explain why I loved this book so much except to say that I connected with it on some deep, perhaps subconcious level. This is the only book I've ever read that made me cry, really cry rather than shed a few tears. In fact I bawled nonstop for nearly half an hour towards the end. I confess I remember little about the plot, but I can recommend this book for the beautiful, vivid, unusual, honest writing style. Also the book alternatives between the narratives of each brother, and one comes ...more
Tom
Dec 31, 2007 Tom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Alright. Some people like subtle stories that reflect real life and try to tell a story in which not a lot happens. This isn't that. It's the huge, ridiculously ambitious story of the individual members of the Chance family. It chronicles their lives over the course of a couple decades. The characters are amazing. The father is still my favorite character in any book, ever. Ultimately Duncan suceeds in writing a page turner that is also beautifully written, and thought provoking. The first time ...more
Amy
Aug 08, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mount-tbr-2016
This 736-page book had been sitting on my bookshelf for at least 13 years. I'd picked it up and put it down more times than I can count in that time. Finally decided to turn to page 1 and start it. And I'm so glad I did. This is a novel about a family named Chance as they moved through their lives in the 1960s in Camas, Washington. I can't even accurately summarize the plot -- it's got baseball, and religion, and the Vietnam War, and draft dodging, and India, and college campuses, and beautifull ...more
Christopher
Jul 08, 2016 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-favorites
Another reaffirmation of why I love novels, especially LONG novels with richly drawn characters that I feel I KNOW. I FEEL them. As crazy as this may sound, I found myself wanting to spend more time with them than, well, you know...
But then, this isn't so crazy. This is the reason we read literature, so that we can immerse ourselves and experience their lives as if they are real.
The Chance family IS real to me.

There is a beautiful balance between the tragic and the triumphant. It brought to mi
...more
Jeni
Mar 26, 2013 Jeni rated it liked it
I feel like I just crossed the finish line of a marathon... I think this is a fine work of fiction, there is much to appreciate. There are also so many descriptions and explanations and words used to do them that it just plain wore me out. I could go on and on, but I'll leave that to the author.
Tsung Wei
Apr 09, 2016 Tsung Wei rated it really liked it
This is “The Waltons - the reality series.” It’s raw and rough around the edges, unedited and unsanitised.

The main plot revolves around the Chance family. The cast includes Hugh and Laura, the parents, the four titular brothers, Everett, Peter, Irwin and Kincaid, the twin girls, Freddy and Bet, and a large number of secondary characters. The story follows the ups and downs of the family through the years. Hugh was an aspiring, talented baseball pitcher whose prospects were dashed by a hand injur
...more
Katie Parker
Jul 27, 2011 Katie Parker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Washingtonians, baseball fans
Shelves: historical
The Brothers K was really good. I may be biased, since it takes place in Washington State, but it was one of the best so-called “great American novels” that I’ve read. (Granted I haven’t read that many of them.) Spanning several years, from 1956 to 1974, the book tells the story of the Chance family of Camas, Washington (where my grandma lives, actually). Hugh, the father, was a burgeoning baseball prodigy before a series of injuries ended his career and he ended up at Crown Z paper mill. He’s m ...more
Mary
Apr 12, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, diamonds
The Brothers K is a most genuine portrayal of a family and a decade in turmoil. Throw in baseball as the metaphor for this journey of a family simultaneously battling everything life, religious obsession, Vietnam and anything else that comes along and it becomes a great American tale. This is a story in which to find familiars for any reader, be they in our own families or friends or children or community or country. That is the pull of the story- these are things we know of but to read it all t ...more
Frances Scott
Jan 13, 2016 Frances Scott rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read. It has memorable characters, a story line that draws in the reader, and it explores topics that are important, at least to me . . . family, scholarship, organized religion, spirituality, baseball. Putting aside differences. Children leading the adults.

It's not for everyone and it's not a light read. It's humorous, filled with wit and cleverness, but it's also heavy with intellectual meanderings and angst. It's dense and it's rich, and it took me a l
...more
Borbality
Jul 01, 2016 Borbality rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The book is just wonderful. I mean, maybe it's a little heavy-handed at times, the tear-jerking stuff is a little unfair after the way it introduces all the characters, and the Jesus revival stuff at the very very end is almost a little forced and rushed, but you and I will overlook any of that.

Just wonderful stuff and there's really no way to explain it without making it sound cliched (the anti-war hippy, the old leathery ballplayer, the idealist jesus freak) or corny or sappy, but it's not!

Irw
...more
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David James Duncan (born 1952) is an American novelist and essayist, best known for his two bestselling novels, The River Why (1983) and The Brothers K (1992). Both involve fly fishing, baseball, and family.

Both received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers award; The Brothers K was a New York Times Notable Book in 1992 and won a Best Books Award from the American Library Association.

Film adaptation
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“Anyone too undisciplined, too self-righteous or too self-centered to live in the world as it is has a tendency to idealize a world which ought to be. But no matter what political or religious direction such idealists choose, their visions always share one telling characteristic: in their utopias, heavens or brave new worlds, their greatest personal weakness suddenly appears to be a strength.” 45 likes
“In a head-on collision with Fanatics, the real problem is always the same: how can we possibly behave decently toward people so arrogantly ignorant that they believe, first, that they possess Christ's power to bestow salvation, second, that forcing us to memorize and regurgitate a few of their favorite Bible phrases and attend their church is that salvation, and third, that any discomfort, frustration, anger or disagreement we express in the face of their moronic barrages is due not to their astounding effrontery but to our sinfulness?” 24 likes
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