3 out of 4 stars
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My Brother Was My Keeper is Vada Allen-Johnson’s recollection of her family. It is both tragic and hopeful, as she experienced both during her life. Set in East Texas, the story honors the author’s brother and grandfather while also revealing some family horrors that no one should have to go through.
The Allen family is a big one, consisting of four girls, a boy, and a mother. The father prefers to be called “Mister,” thus minimizing his part in the family. Vada is the youngest child, meaning that she is supposed to be the most loved and spoiled of them all. However, the horrors of her life are only bearable because of a small number of people who showed her kindness. But the tables have turned, and she is calling her abusers for their actions.
Everyone has or had problems with their family, whether it is a disagreement or something more serious. However, the events described in this book surpass everything I could’ve imagined. For example, the author was almost strangled to death with a nylon stocking just for being born. Unfortunately, many similar events take place in the pages of this book, from losing loved ones to living the life of a slave. The chapters about the people who made everything better were the only consolation. One of the most memorable chapters was about a stranger who took care of the author without expecting anything in return. Small acts of kindness, even if rare, are the reason for going further, even when things seem to have no point. In that regard, the book delivers a hopeful message about healing. Many valuable lessons are taught here, like honesty, unconditional love, and sharing.
I appreciated that the author let herself be vulnerable. She refused to give the characters their real names, but she still exposed their actions and hoped that they would realize the wrongs they did. The most important persons are Mommy, Mister, Papa, the Monster, and Chinee. Even though the reader doesn’t know their real names, it feels more personal to know these nicknames. Through this, the author introduces the reader to her family.
Although all persons were described in detail, the author’s brother, Chinee, was the most interesting one. He was kind, selfless, but he also had his flaws. This made everything feel genuine and helped me relate to his character. The book is essentially a gratitude letter to him.
The book was highly entertaining. The author chose only key moments from her life, so there was no unnecessary information. The writing style is elegant and honest, which I think is the best combination for a memoir. The ending brought me to tears, making me realize how much I actually cared about the characters. The brother and sister relationship overcomes all boundaries, being portrayed as one of the purest kinds of love. In the end, love truly conquers all.
Religion has an important role in the author’s life, but I don’t think readers who have different beliefs would be offended by this book. The book is free of any mature content, but the events could be disturbing for those with soft hearts. However, I encourage everyone to check this book out as it shows nothing but the truth. Readers who like emotionally-filled stories would enjoy this book at its best.
My only complaint is that the events were not in chronological order. The time jumps can be confusing, leading to misunderstandings. For that reason, my recommendation would be to re-arrange the chapters in order. Since this is just a personal preference, it won’t affect my rating.
However, I can’t say the same thing about the grammar errors, which were more than I could count. Some of the most disturbing ones were the missing commas, as they disrupted the flow of the sentences. Because of that, I have to deduct a star from the rating of this book. Thus, because the book has more qualities than flaws, I rate My Brother Was My Keeper 3 out of 4 stars.
My Brother Was My Keeper
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