cover image Brothers Like Friends

Brothers Like Friends

Klaus Kordon. Philomel Books, $14.95 (206pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22137-8

This engrossing autobiographical novel takes place in Berlin in 1950, but anyone with an older sibling will understand seven-year-old Frank's adulation of his half-brother, Burkie. Twice Frank's age, Burkie has a girlfriend, stars on the soccer team and helps teach Frank to read and to swim. Even better, he stands up to their mother's parasitic new husband. Kordon's achingly persuasive portrayal of the brothers' bond builds solidly, and when Burkie is hurt on the soccer field, it's clear why Frank obeys Burkie's directions to tell their sports-hating mother only part of the truth--even when Burkie becomes dangerously ill. Disclosure comes too late, however, and Burkie dies. Kordon treats this tragedy with exceptional candor and sensitivity, involving readers in his characters' struggles with responsibility, guilt and loss. The war, always lurking in the background, is soft-pedaled. No one, it seems, supported the Nazis, and everyone cherishes the lone Jewish survivor, who himself harbors no ill will toward his erstwhile assassins. But Kordon refers to lost fathers and brothers, refugees and ruins. His stylish novel will encourage readers to question both history and themselves. Ages 10-up. (May)