Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (9/18)
Many of us have at least one person in our family who tries us – someone who is not only unhelpful but generates havoc and stress for others. In Beverley Hopwood’s memoir, “Oh Brother! Confessions of a Long-Suffering Sister,” she tells the story of Anne whose life is burdened with the task of dealing with her troublesome brother Ted.
The first chapters are snippets of childhood memories: camping or driving to the beach, making mud pies in the yard, hiding in the basement, – routine activities – nothing dramatic or out of the ordinary. The family moves around along the Canadian/US border and the stage is set for a typical household in the sixties. But there are underlying patterns taking shape.
Self-assured and independent as a child, Anne is given responsibilities and chores for a person twice her age. This contrasts greatly with her brother Ted’s more indulgent upbringing. Enabled and protected by their mother, Ted’s irresponsibility evolves, and he soon develops habits of hoarding and succumbs to gambling and alcohol. As a grown man, he has no way to pay his bills or take care of himself. A marriage, death and several years disconnect the two siblings so that when Anne finally reunites with Ted, she is dumbfounded by his derelict lifestyle and the strain he has placed on their mother.
Hopwood’s book is well written and flows quickly. The storyline has good progression and contains just enough detail to hold my interest without being tedious. There is a perfect balance between description and dialog to create characters that are distinctive and relatable. Her success in this publication may be attributed to the fact that she has written four prior novels, specializing in history and genealogy. I look forward to exploring her other works.
In “Oh, Brother!” there are a lot of repairs and retributions to address as Anne tries to care for a brother who is useless and destructive. Each encounter between the two siblings is filled with tense conversation and constant reprimanding. I found myself on pins and needles witnessing the difficult visits between Anne and her brother Ted. But he is family and she is responsible. Author Beverley Hopwood communicates this very well in the book. Although strained family dynamics may be commonplace for many, the problem is difficult to crack when addiction and dependency are involved. This is a story for those coping with dysfunctional behavior – a situation that often keeps loved ones trapped in a vicious cycle of rescuing those unable to care for themselves.