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The Brothers K

4.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,150 Ratings  ·  1,420 Reviews

Once in a great while a writer comes along who can truly capture the drama and passion of the life of a family. David James Duncan, author of the novel The River Why and the collection River Teeth, is just such a writer. And in The Brothers K he tells a story both striking and in its originality and poignant in its universality.

This touchin
Kindle Edition, 640 pages
Published (first published 1992)
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Mary The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay is just as compelling. I agree that A Prayer for Owen Meany belongs on this list, as does The Goldfinch.
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Nov 13, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 31, 2008 Summer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 25, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Devin Bruce
Oct 12, 2007 Devin Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 08, 2007 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 16, 2008 meosima rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 25, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 03, 2012 Gloria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
John Lauricella
Nov 22, 2014 John Lauricella rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Murphy
Sep 28, 2012 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 13, 2015 KatieMc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Patrick Brown
Mar 18, 2008 Patrick Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sidharth Vardhan
May 23, 2016 Sidharth Vardhan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
There is a lot of baseball in there - because the father was a baseball player and various developments in his career are closely followed. Later his sons too had failed Baseball careers with high school teams - actually their baseball careers foreshadowed their failures to achieve what they could in life. Besides there are a lot of baseball quotes.

There are a lot of literature references too, mostly Russian - the title nods to Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, there are other nods too – a charac
Davie Bennett
Nov 02, 2008 Davie Bennett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 04, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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)
Apr 15, 2008 Jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 13, 2009 Bram rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 14, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2007 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 26, 2013 Jeni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Liza Fireman
May 21, 2016 Liza Fireman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tsung Wei
Apr 09, 2016 Tsung Wei rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2015 Borbality rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!

Frances Scott
Jan 13, 2016 Frances Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Katie Parker
Jul 27, 2011 Katie Parker rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 24, 2013 JJVid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I haven't read The Brothers Karamazov. I'm sure if I had I would've established distinct parallels between the two books, noticed a lot more foreshadowing, and appreciated this novel much more. It's not that I disliked the book. Actually, I loved it and rank it among my all-time favorites in both writing style and overall story. But, had I read Dostoyevsky's inspiring tome I'd be preaching The Brothers K as a Bible, swearing by its nonpareil literary merit, condemning inferior works of fiction h ...more
May 13, 2011 Kerfe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, baseball
"He said there are two ways for a hitter to get the pitch he wants. The simplest way is not to want ANY pitch in particular. But the best way, he said--which sounds the same, but is really very different--is to want the very pitch you're gonna get. Including the one you can handle. But also the one that's gonn strike you out looking. And even the one that's maybe gonna bounce off your head."

To quote some cliches: this book made me LOL and also brought tears to my eyes.

It's a book about family an
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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.

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