Glee's Reviews > The Things a Brother Knows

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
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Mar 04, 2011

it was amazing
Read in March, 2011

This is a very well done young adult novel about two brothers, both of whom have been profoundly affected by the older brother unexpectedly joining the Marines after graduating from high school. The prose is uncomplicated and straightforward, with a good ear for dialogue. The book begins as the older brother returns home after three years of service in the military, a good deal of which was spent in combat. While unspecified, the desert played a large part, so you can infer where the combat occurred. And you realize it doesn’t matter. Combat changes people forever, whenever and wherever experienced. The characters are well developed, especially the younger brother and his two best friends.

As the older brother struggles to come to terms with his experiences, he isolates himself from the world, locking himself in his room for days, refusing to ride in cars (or buses or taxis or trains), and rejecting overtures from his family and old girlfriend. The younger brother desperately wants things to be as they were “before”. The journey (literally and figuratively) to connect with his brother leads to his growing understanding, and finally acceptance, that the past is not recoverable. And the end of the younger brother’s journey provides for the beginning of the older brother’s journey to recovery.

Another interesting point of contrast in the book is between this generation's experience of military service and the experience of the parents (and even grandparents) of the brothers. The brothers are modern day young adults, so military service is unevenly distributed across the population, and is very unusual in their middle class suburban existence. When the older brother made the decision to join the Marines, his family and friends were horrified...after all, he had been accepted at Cornell, Columbia and Berkeley. So why was it he joined the Marines? In contrast, the father and grandfather of the brothers were Israeli, and their military experience was culturally universal, one that everyone they knew had experienced. Nonetheless, after emigrating to America and raising a family, they were still dismayed that their older son decided to join the military rather than going off to the university of his choice. But the father and the sons actually talked about the differences in expectations and experiences and how that affected their re-entry (or difficulty in re-entry) into "normal" society.

Finally, like many YA novels, it is also a quick read, and that helped me like it even more….
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