Brothers, by Ralph Josiah Bardsley
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: December 14, 2015
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
At twenty-three, Jamus Cork’s plans are simple—graduate college, stay in New York City, and write. But those plans change when his parents are suddenly killed and he finds himself the guardian of his little brother, Nick. Jamus ends up back in the Boston neighborhood where he grew up, with a crying toddler on his knee and the challenge of building a new life for himself and the boy. Jamus somehow finds a way to navigate the ups and downs of single parenting, but over a decade of raising Nick, Jamus never truly overcomes his struggles with loneliness and the guilt he feels as the sole survivor of the crash that killed his parents. That changes when he meets bookishly handsome Sean Malloy. There’s a spark between the two men, but both must face down their own private demons to find love in the Irish enclave of South Boston.
Brothers, explores the dynamics between two sets of Irish American brothers from South Boston. Their lives meet in unexpected ways and, as they grow together they learn about bravery, love and being comfortable in their own skins.
”Here is to life being about whatever the hell you want it to be about.”
”I’ll drink to that,” he said, and they clinked glasses.
Life could be about a lot of other things.
About having lost your parents in a car crash when you were twenty and carrying the guilt of surviving the same accident with you for years, never really coping and pushing your miserable soul into books, always coming back to the same life altering event.
About raising your baby brother Nick who was only three years old when your parents died, and giving him the best you have, overseeing that you yourself should maybe also have a life and love.
This is Jamus’s life.
Life could also be about growing up in an Irish catholic family, being the only one to get a university degree and even a PhD, and being secretly gay, wishing not to be and being so far in the closet – even from yourself – you’re not sure if you ever want or are able to come out.
This is Sean’s life.
Brothers tells the story of this men and how they all find a way to live the life they want and be free of the burdens others or they themselves put on them.
From the very first page, Brothers is a gripping story because of the amazing writing talent of the author. The way he describes the characters and their life builds a very strong connection to the reader and it makes it very easy to care for all of them. Despite this, the story has a very slow pace and it actually takes quite a while until their lives intertwine.
Speaking of this, I found it to be remarkable how Brothers does not resemble any recognisable usual romantic, orchestrated story development. I’d say that in 95% of the books I read, it’s obvious that I’m reading a story about two fictional characters. The author is using them to tell me a story that even often feels very real and lets me connect the story with my real life and myself. The characters have either known each other before or their paths meet at the beginning of the book because they go to the same university or maybe they meet on a vacation in some secluded place or they have to work together on a case or mission or whatever.
Brothers has a very different approach because it tells so much of the protagonists before they meet. We already know them before they get to know each other and that makes a huge difference in how the characters come across. It makes them and their story even more realistic and it seems like this is exactly how it could have happened.
Not only that but when they finally meet, the reader already thinks that this is a match made in heaven and, I dunno, I was so done for when they just shook hands for the first time at church, or when they had to meet at Nick’s school (Sean is Nick’s English teacher).
I really, really loved Nick’s and Jamus’s relationship. They are good with each other, and I think the contradiction of Jamus being a brother and a parent was extraordinarily well done.
This is from right before Jamus’s and Sean’s first date:
”Now you’re just being nervous and it’s really weirding me out,” Nick said. “Just go.”
”Bye, you.” He grabbed Nick’s head and gave him a kiss on the scalp. “I’ll be home by ten.”
”Yeah, yeah,” Nick said. “Go get laid, will ya?”
”Mouth!” Jamus shouted. “I’m going to clean it out with soap.”
”Yeah, yeah.” Nick smiled at his brother. “I’m not waiting up.”
I think the author did a great job with showing Jamus’s, Sean’s, and Nick’s life, and also with believably developing their characters to a hopeful happy ending.
Apart from the protagonists, there are several more important characters, like Sean’s brother Kevin and Nick’s friend Matt. There’s also Gracie, who I came to like a huge deal. I can’t emphasise enough how much I appreciate that she is not a mean and bitchy female character in this story. I think she’s wonderful.
If you like gay fiction with complex characters and some romance, I highly recommend this book. I found it because it is a finalist for the Lambda Award 2016.
A little bit more about me – I was born in a small town outside of Boston. My dad was in the Coast Guard and so I grew up in a lot of different places – New Orleans, Cape Cod, North Carolina and Sitka, Alaska. When I wasn’t in school, I spent most of my time in Coast Guard hangers or reading. Today I live in San Francisco where my hobbies include writing, running and wine tasting! Like everyone else I wear a few hats. I work in the high tech industry in marketing. I hold a bachelor’s degree from Greensboro College and a master’s in communication from Emerson College.
My writing comes from a combination of experience and imagination. My family – especially my husband Dana – is a big part of my inspiration. They’re always pushing me to do more and I love them for it. I also love to travel, and I manage to work the details from the places I visit into the stories and the books I write. Someone once told me that the only true value you ever get for your money is travel – and I couldn’t agree more.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.