cover image Brothers


George Howe Colt. Scribner, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4165-4777-8

The brotherly counterpoint between fierce rivalry and stalwart affection is teased out in this absorbing meditation on family dynamics. New York Times notable author Colt (The Big House) presents vivid accounts of famous fraternal sagas, including the tragic path of Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, the mutual martyrdoms of the tormented Vincent Van Gogh and his tenderly supportive brother Theo, and the endless, anarchic scrimmage among the Marx Brothers. Colt is a superb biographical sketch artist who incorporates a wealth of vibrant, entertaining detail and subtle analysis into these illuminating portraits; as his subjects squabble over parental attention, dinner-table scraps, women, and status, their relationships are a maelstrom of tyrannizing, thwarting, nagging, and suing mixed with admiring, teaching, sustaining, and protecting. Alternate chapters recount the author’s quiet but intense memories of growing up in the middle of three brothers—his depiction of postwar suburban kid culture is piquant and evocative—torn between hero worship, jealousy, resentful infighting, and a sense of loss as the brothers go their separate ways. No one writes better than Colt about families and the strange alchemy that binds them, and the way siblings make each other what they are even as they become distinct, even estranged, personalities. (Nov. 27)