Bethany Miller's Reviews > The Things a Brother Knows

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
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Jan 12, 11

bookshelves: ms-miller-s-book-list, 2011-yalsa-top-ten-best-fiction-for
Read from October 20 to 21, 2010

3.5 stars

Levi’s brother Boaz has finally returned home from the war, but from the moment he walks through the door, it’s clear that he isn’t the same person he was when he left. Levi wants to understand what his brother has been through, but Boaz shuts himself in his room and won’t talk to anyone. When Boaz announces that he is going to hike the Appalachian Trail, Levi senses that his brother isn’t telling the truth about where he’s going. Levi does some snooping and discovers that Boaz has plotted a course to walk to Washington D.C. with stops marked along the way. Levi can’t figure out why his brother wants to go to Washington, why he would want to walk there, or why he’s lying about it, but Boaz isn’t offering any answers. He leaves home early one morning with his backpack and hiking boots strapped on, his parents still believing that he is setting off for the Appalachian Trail. After a couple of weeks have passed, Levi decides that he needs to find his brother and bring him home. He tells his parents that Boaz called him from the Trail and asked him to join him. After strapping on his own backpack and hiking boots, Levi sets out on a journey to find out what his brother is seeking and to bring him back home again.

In The Things a Brother Knows, Reinhardt realistically portrays the emotional and psychological wounds of a soldier returning home and the impact these wounds can have on a family. Though Boaz remains as mysterious to the reader as he does to his brother for much of the book, Levi is a complex character whose internal conflicts are well developed throughout the book. He struggles to understand Boaz’s reasons for joining the Marines in the first place as well as the changes that have taken place in him since he’s been gone. Though he loves his brother, Levi isn’t sure that he supports the war, and he’s not sure how Boaz feels either since he’s not talking much. Reinhardt realistically depicts the conflicting emotions of many people who don’t support the war but do support the soldiers, and she does not offer easy answers. The Things a Brother Knows successfully addresses an important question in contemporary society – what happens to soldiers and their loved ones when they return home from the horrors of war? This novel is sure to spark lively discussions among readers.
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