Sara's Reviews > Brother

Brother by Ania Ahlborn
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really liked it

I admit I've always been halfway curious about how your average serial killing family acts when they're just, ya know, hanging out. Ania Ahlborn has created a cast of the most breathtakingly evil murderers, molesters and all around psychopaths since "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" changed the definition of "a quiet family dinner at home."

I was white knuckled and mildly sick as I followed Michael, the youngest son of dirt poor, Appalachian hillbillies the Morrow's, who's daily chores include cleaning up after his mama's "hobby" and submitting to the will of his psychotic older brother Ray. Then there's Michael's sister Missy who's acting anything but sisterly and his father who doesn't say much but is certainly supportive of his wife's trivial pursuits.

Michael is fighting his own battles. Increasingly reluctant to participate in his families extracurricular activities and beginning to feel a desire to escape from a life of poverty, filth, and well murder he finds himself drawn to Alice a girl from a neighboring town. Alice represents everything Michael has never known he always wanted; purity, hope, love, and a future where he is master of his own life.

Whether he can find the strength to break from his family and find a new life with Alice is only part of the focus of this unputdownable (not a word but it should be) foray into darkness.

Michael is a fantastically deep character despite his naivety and lack of basic knowledge about the world. His love for his family is always apparent and even understandable. They are all he's ever known so of course he loves them. Even the horrific abuse he witnesses and takes himself on a daily basis is just a normal day. His near constant internal battle to keep his family safe from discovery but somehow escape them makes for a fascinating, deeply conflicted character. He's at once childlike and full of an adult hunger and ambition.

No less fascinating is Ray. Michael's older brother might be insane but he has his own secrets and a depth of feeling you don't often find in your average murderous nut job. It would be easy to paint him as simply Michael's tormentor but there are bits of affection and even love in Ray's life that the reader glimpses in a series of flashbacks to the boys' shared childhood that take him to a level beyond stock bad guy.

The supporting characters, though they may not be drawn with as much detail, are equally strong. Its a credit to Ms. Ahlborn's skill that we don't need a whole lot of detail into exactly why the family behaves the way they do. We get little tantalizing tastes of dark pasts and deep seated rage, just enough to make their actions understandable.

Ms. Ahlborn paints a dark cloud of quiet tension through this story that had me hopping up and down in my seat to see how the it was all going to play out. If I have any qualms about the ending they are only that there's a bit too much coincidence involved in certain plot points coming together at just the right time for things to finish as they do. But the conclusion of Michael and Ray's story feels right. It ends honestly in the only way it really can.

This is a terrific read that manages so much genuine feeling and growth for its characters in a genre that usually relies on bloodshed and gore to keep its readers occupied. Ms. Ahlborn rises above the myriad other horror/thriller writers out there by giving us people to care about, horrible but nonetheless believable scenes of true terror, and equally powerful moments of tenderness and sincere love. Brava Ms. Ahlborn! I'll be watching for your next book with great anticipation!
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
May 16, 2016 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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Melissa Great review! I really enjoyed this book too.


message 2: by Sandra (new) - added it

Sandra Sounds good. And I agree with the "unputdownable" word remark. :)


Sara Admittedly I don't read like a ton of this kind of graphic horror but I was really intrigued by the whole serial killing extravaganza from the perspective of the villains thing. It could have been very corny and cliched but Ahlborn really carries it off.


message 4: by Kandice (last edited May 16, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kandice I agree with everything you said. I found it really pushed me. I'm also glad we aren't given some reason WHY they do what they do. I'm afraid that would feel too much like an excuse.


Sara Kandice wrote: "I agree with everything you said. I found it really pushed me. I'm also glad we aren't given some reason WHY they do what they do. I'm afraid that would feel too much like an excuse."

Absolutely! That's another thing she handles really well. You're dropped right into the day to day life of the family and the characters are so intense it doesn't matter "why" its happening.


Sheri New author for me!! I just ordered this book! I can't wait to read it. I have to check out more of your book shelves.


Sheri Well, in addition to the above, I ordered two other books also. She sounds like an amazing author.


Sara Sheri, just stay away from the “I Blame Stephanie Meyer” shelf. ;)


message 9: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim Great review, Sara. I've always been impressed by Ms Ahlborn's writing!


Sheri Ha!! You can't tell me to stay away from a shelf. That's like telling me not to press the pretty red button!! I had to. The reviews were hilarious. In all honesty, with all the hype, I bought the 50 Shades trilogy set. I read one paragraph. It made my brain hurt. I immediately threw it away. And I've never thrown books away. I've always donated them. In this case, they were donated appropriately.


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