By Kaydee Donohoo
“The Half Brother” by Holly LeCraw is thus far the best book I’ve read in 2015. It went on sale in late February, which means it’ll still be easy to find on “new release” shelves.
Holly LeCraw is a semi-local author who lives outside of Boston. This is her second novel; her various works appear in esteemed literary journals, and earned a Pushcart Prize nomination.
The novel starts out like the classic tale of an outsider coming into a world he does not feel he fits in. In this case, that world revolves around a New England boarding school and the family of a school chaplain. The protagonist, Charlie Garrett, finds the boarding school fresh out of the Harvard school he only attended because of his step-father’s in to the school.
This step-father and perfect half-brother are just some of the things painting Charlie’s complicated past. Charlie finds a romance with May, the chaplain’s daughter, and discovers that things may be much more complicated than he once thought.
The characters found in “The Half Brother” are an interesting pull throught the story, even if the settings and plot sometimes pull harder. If these characters are at all based on stereotypes, they are not any I’ve seen, or are still different enough that I don’t notice.
Everything involving entertainment lately feels like it just about only involves romance. While there is romance, and yes, a love triangle in some spaces, it is done in a way that doesn’t feel exhausted.
This novel doesn’t bend backwards to avoid stereotypes. “The Half Brother” weaves in and out of stories “told before” and uses them simply as a jumping-off point. We’ve all read or seen a teacher-student romance, yet LeCraw makes just a few changes to keep the plotline entirely fresh and exciting.
Nearly all the romance, for instance, begins after the student graduates. The story feels new in some ways because LeCraw is simply a good writer.
LeCraw’s writing style is compelling enough to remind me why I love reading so much. She mixes eloquent descriptions of beautiful moments and places, with the inevitable, but powerfully more-or-less traumatic happenings of the characters. The beginning scenes of summer truly pulled me into that world, despite the bitter winter surrounding me as I read it. The novel is chock-full of interesting twists that I never saw coming. While we’ve all heard the stories with pasts that are impossible to leave, “The Half Brother” adds a unique meaning to the phrase.
As summer approaches, and we can switch from textbooks to fun reads, I highly recommend adding “The Half Brother” to your list.