Barry Moser grew up the younger of two brothers in small town Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 40’s and 50’s. Barry and Tommy shared a bedroom, friends, and had almost identical experiences growing up. Eventually one did well in business, and the other succeeded in academia. We Were Brothers is Moser’s memoir of growing up in a racist community with a brother he didn’t get along with. In fact, these brothers were adversaries until late in life, and only then, through a series of letters, did they reconcile. But they only had a short time to enjoy their amity, as Tommy died in his 60’s.
There are no big plot twists and no adventurous journeys. We Were Brothers is simply one man’s story of a dysfunctional family. We are all familiar with them whether in fiction or in our own lives. However, what stands out here is Moser’s candor, and his publication of actual letters exchanged between the brothers. Neither come out complimentary. Moser is willing to expose not only his brother’s dark underside, but his own. He fully admits that he is telling this version of the story through his eyes, allowing us to consider Tommy’s alternate view. And as with many southern writers, Moser describes the learned prejudices and political sway of white families. The divide with his brother is enhanced when Barry moves north and becomes a “recovering racist”.
Though the book is prosaic throughout, there are moments of grace. It was interesting and a quick read; however, I may stick with Moser’s artwork (which is quite good and for which he is known), instead of his writing in the future.
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Vickie’s rating: 3 stars