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The Brothers K

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  14,419 ratings  ·  1,883 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.
Tina The order doesn't matter. Each book stands on its own.
The order doesn't matter. Each book stands on its own.

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Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,419 ratings  ·  1,883 reviews

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Oct 11, 2014 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
Oct 22, 2007 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
Mar 23, 2013 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
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ted by: Steve Rubic
Aside from having fictitious siblings (an extra brother, and where in Ivan’s name did those two twin sisters come from) I must admit I enjoyed reading this book, based on my own family. I recognized themes similar to those that so oppressed my actual brothers and me. The references to baseball were enigmatic, but I decided to treat them as if a game of gorodki were being referred to. This helped.
Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov

I can’t remember the last time I consumed so many pages of the same book
Aug 02, 2011 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
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brothers K by David James Duncan

'In 1961 the best all-around player in baseball became a kind of machine for grinding out long fly balls. As he neared Ruth’s record the man in Maris recognized the Technician of Boink for the inhuman force it was, and began to grapple with it, sensing that his balance — that is his life — was at stake. He began to lose sleep, and to have trouble eating. His hair began to fall out in clumps. Near the end of the season he would break down during post-game intervie
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A very charming novel. The story of the Chance family had me laughing out loud on several occasions, and many of the characters are simply unforgettable. This isn't just a coming of age story centered around a baseball family. Baseball lies at the heart of this novel, but Duncan has a lot to say and "The Brothers K" is a pointed analysis of American life in the late 60's and early 70's.

It is not a novel without flaws- the Chance boys Psalm war with their mother gets old after a while, and the r
Oct 01, 2008 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
Devin Bruce
Sep 05, 2007 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
Lubinka Dimitrova
Sigh... This was one of the most satisfying books I've read this year, and I'm kind of sad now that it ended... It was a wonderful heart-warming, silly, uplifting, depressing, funny, soul-crushing journey in the company of great characters, laugh-out-loud humor, multilayered stories, family love, history, baseball, war, religion, philosophy and 60's era politics. I cannot really express my admiration for the author's ability to show us how deep the love between the members of the Chance family r ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021, favorites
this is the story of an eight-way tangle of human beings, only one-eighth of which was a pro ballplayer

I don’t even like baseball, but I do love complex, multi-layered metaphors about life, even when most of them deal with this ‘ridiculous’ ball game. I also love smarty-pants, tongue-in-cheek novels that trick you into a debate about the eternal questions. Duncan has already convinced me about his particular talent with “The River Why”, but with the Saga of the Chance family I believe he took
Jun 08, 2007 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
John Lauricella
Nov 12, 2013 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
Apr 05, 2012 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
Joy D
Sweeping family saga set mostly in the 1960’s – 1970’s in the state of Washington, The Brothers K is the story of the Papa Hugh Chance, a former baseball player whose career was derailed by injury, Mama Laura, a fervent Seventh Day Adventist with a painful past, and their four sons and two daughters. It is told in first person by the youngest son, Kincaid, through his own observations, as well as news articles, letters, school papers, and family memorabilia that provide additional points of view ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nov 28, 2011 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)
Sidharth Vardhan
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chandler-s-box, 8-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
“He loved The Brothers K,” to bastardise Orwell. He is me, I am he: love-abundant, reduced at one early point to actual, proper tears that, while more the gentle-slide-down-cheek kind than the heavy-flood-of-face sob, was nevertheless an impressive first for a book. Wonders never cease at how squiggly marks on dead trees can be so capable, generate such heartfelt magic, yet somehow David James Duncan manages it here, easily if sadistically. The Brothers K: a complete knockout, plus collection of ...more
James Murphy
Aug 16, 2012 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
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ah-favorites
9.5 on a 5 point scale. Okay maybe 7 out of 5. Both are ridiculous of course but short of revising nearly every prior rating it's the only way I can think of to signify how extraordinary this book is. Seriously. I've been intentionally tight fisted with my 5-star ratings, reserving them for books I've found exceptionally life-enhancing, knowledge-widening, comprehension-giving, paradigm-challenging, soul-enriching &/or breath-taking.

Nevertheless The Brothers K has shattered the 5 star ceiling so
Apr 27, 2012 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
Jun 18, 2012 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
Nov 11, 2015 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
May 24, 2012 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. ...more
Patrick Brown
Feb 01, 2008 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
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 adultho ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of the Chance family in 1960's America. Made me laugh, made me damn near cry. Reminiscent of John Irving. Sometimes it took me, personally, to places I did not want to go but I'm still glad I took the journey. ...more
Tim Otto
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is my second favorite novel in the world (Jayber Crow has my heart forever). It has it all: a captivating plot, character development, brilliant writing, humor, depth . . . and weirdly (unexpectedly), it is the best-imagined account I've come across of how a small, motley, congregation can take on the powers. I listened to much of it on hoopla (free through your library) and the audiobook is excellent. If you are looking for your next engrossing novel, this could be it (and on page 100 is w ...more
Liza Fireman
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 03, 2014 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
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Play Book Tag: [Trim] The Brothers K by David James Duncan - 4 stars 1 10 Aug 10, 2019 04:50PM  
The Bookhouse Boys: Let's read a book! 6 23 Dec 01, 2016 06:10PM  
Plot Devices 1 26 Feb 17, 2015 02:06PM  
Memories of the story-StoveLand 2 55 Apr 11, 2008 02:17PM  

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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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