Friday, February 1, 2013

Recommendation: 'My Brother Simple' by Marie-Aude Murail

My brother Simple. Imagine being in high school and having to live as an independent, surviving on very little income,  managing shared living arrangements, and trying to concentrate on  your final year of high school. On top of all of this, imagine being primary carer for an older brother who has learning difficulties. Kleber, an emancipated sixteen year old has resuced his older brother from sheltered accomodation where his  brother progressively deteriorated physically and emotionally. Kleber's mother has passed away and his father has all his energies focused on his new young wife, so institutionalising 'Simple' was a convienent solution.

Simple is completely endearing. He may have the mental and emotional capacities of a young child yet the words from his mouth often contain an essential truth, pared back from the usual  social nicieties and political correctness that temper what is spoken aloud.

The author has created a lovely story focused around the flatshare arrangement Kleber and his brother enter into. Really the hero of the story is Simple and how he relates to others as well as how they cope with encountering someone profoundly different from themsleves.

Often humorous and  achingly tender, this novel also tackles the big guns of tolerance, acceptance and how people respond to difference. On a secondary level, the themes of belonging and what constitutes family are raised as Kleber gradually learns sometimes family consists of a grouping of people who rally behind you and support you though the twists and turns life offers.

Reviewed by: Sue W (Central City)

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