3 out of 4 stars
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Zelda Marshall is an ordained minister and a successful entrepreneur. A trained hairstylist, she went on to establish several hairstyling salons and to own rental properties. Her business success is not the subject of this book, however, nor does her church ministry feature directly here. Instead, I Am My Brother is about her role as a caregiver to several members of her family. She places this experience in the context of her Christian faith, telling her story in the hope that it can help others who find themselves in similar situations.
This short book consists of eleven chapters plus an introduction and an epilogue. There are also a few pages of references at the end. In the first half of the book, the author describes how she had to take on the role of caregiver for four family members - her father, brother, and two aunts – when they all required help at the same time. It proves to be a challenging task for Zelda, and she finds herself asking the question, am I my brother’s keeper? She discovers the answer in her faith. Each chapter is prefaced by a biblical quote that underlines the centrality of love for one’s neighbor in the message of Christianity. Her selflessness comes at a personal cost, however, something she outlines in chapters seven and eight. In other chapters, she stresses the need for individuals to find and follow their God-given purpose in life. The final chapter deals with the societal problems caused by Covid-19 and racism. The author believes that only by turning to God can we find our way through these major issues.
I was moved by the first half of this book in which the author details her role as a caregiver for the four family members. She writes with sincerity and authenticity, linking her experiences to her Christian faith with a series of biblical quotes. This has the effect of making her faith relevant, of rooting it in her lived experience. I also liked how she emphasizes that her caregiving was not simply one-way traffic; with Aunt Mamie, for example, the author stresses that she and her sister were uplifted by the transformation they witnessed in Mamie’s material and emotional circumstances as a result of their efforts. I liked, too, the author’s realism as she describes the difficulties involved in caring for those with addiction issues. The advice she gives about the need to seek professional help and to surround oneself with a network of support will, no doubt, resonate with those who find themselves in that situation.
I wasn’t so taken with the final chapter of the book. I think it loses the tight focus and personal truth of the rest of the book as the author turns her attention to wider societal issues. For me, her comments on the pandemic and racism don’t carry the same weight as the observations that flow from her individual story. That’s only a personal opinion, however; other readers may feel differently.
The book has been professionally edited. I am awarding it three out of four stars, deducting one star to reflect my reservations about the final chapter. The book is suitable for all but will appeal most to those who enjoy reading about journeys in faith through difficult times. It will appeal to Christians in particular, given the author’s own faith and the many biblical quotations, and to people who have caregiving responsibilities for family members.
I am my Brother
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