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The Brothers K

By Jeffrey B. Friedrich, MD

The reason why I started reading The Brothers K by David James Duncan (the same author who wrote The River Why) is because I’d heard that one of the characters had a toe transfer following a work-related thumb injury. That is indeed part of the story, but a minor one. It’s also set in Washington state, where I live, so that was another draw for me. The toe transfer and the setting got me to open the book, but the story and characters are the reason I formed a lasting bond with it.

It’s not a mistake that the title sounds a bit like The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky’s novel that deals with morality, religion and free will. The Brothers K is a modern and, at times, funny look at some of those same issues. The story is told from the point of view of Kincaid Chance, the youngest of four brothers. His father previously had a minor league baseball career that he struggles to revive following the toe transfer. The other brothers in the family also work through their own challenges with education, relationships, and staying alive.

What is most moving about the book is its ability to make each of the characters simultaneously relatable, exhilarating, and pitiable. As I see it, it makes for a good metaphor for all of our relationships – family, work and patient. We all have imperfections and work to overcome them to do right by the people closest to us. And, it is a reminder that everyone around us is working through struggles that may not be easily visible.

Give The Brothers K a look – I think you’ll be happy you did.

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