Other Reviewers: Goodreads
This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review. As with all of my reviews, these are my own opinions.
Recently I have been in a slump for reading. Real life has been extremely hectic, so my “reading for fun” has been very limited. When I got the opportunity to read and review Adrienne Wilder’s series, My Brother’s Keeper (three books) I thought the plot line intriguing enough to fit into my life.
John Foster is a retired Marshall, and not by choice. Now he is living with his life decisions and PTSD, wondering if life is even worth it. A happenstance contact with Ellis brings color back into his life. Can it make him yearn for something with this intriguing man?
Ellis Harper is a man who had to give his life up when his Mother died and left his mentally challenged brother, Rudy to take care. He has given up on ever having a career or a relationship, after all, it takes all of his being just to keep Rudy out of trouble.
Yet, with this meeting comes both strife and a chance for both men to heal. But will the forces around them allow it to happen?
The first thing to keep in mind with this book is that it is book one in a three book series. The entire series is out, so never fear, you can read straight through. Right now, I have only read the first book, so this review will only cover that portion.
I have already reviewed a book by Adrienne Wilder, 7, and really enjoyed it. It was more of a sci-fi fiction and this one, to me has more of a serious, character driven storyline.
This is actually one of the view books when I have found both main characters someone in which I could identify. Normally, there is an Alpha character that I really can’t identify with, but find attractive. With John, yes, he is an Alpha warrior, but he is driven down by life experience and is left a hollow shell of himself. We find him in the beginning of the story minutes from ending his life and it sets the tone (at least the beginning of the novel):
“Please.” Guilt made the gun in Jon’s pocket heavier. What if Rudy had walked up on him a minute later? What if he’d been the one to discover Jon with the top of his head blown off? Was that why he offered? Was he trying to make amends for possibly scarring Ellis’s brother for life with the image of a dead man? If it was, ice cream was a piss poor way to do it, but it was all Jon had.
Which, in John’s situation, you get the impression that his will to live has been trying to counter his need to be punished by death. He is a complex character and by the end of the first book, there are still mysteries of him to be unfolded.
We can relate to Ellis easily. He has never had a serious relationship, because he has had to take care of his brother, and he has had dreams that will never come true. We can all relate to the yearning for something better, but still driven to do the right thing by his brother. We can also relate to the constant fear he lives with including gay and handicap bashing, threats, and fear that someone will take Rudy away from him. Ellis is barely surviving.
He tugged the sheet up and held it to his nose. Rich, almost spicy, Jon’s scent was enough to make Ellis hard.
If only. There were always so many ‘if onlys’.
Day after day life slipped through his fingers, taking every opportunity with it.
Nothing changed for Ellis. Today would be the same as tomorrow, next week, and next year. While he wished for a different life, the concept terrified him.
We respect Ellis for his sacrifices and we yearn for him and Jon to make a relationship work. What I love about Ellis’s reactions to Jon’s sexual advances is his own innocence as he lacks experience. It is refreshing to watch the sexual tension unfold, not in the typical romance fashion.
Ellis caught Jon watching Rudy and smiling. Then he met Ellis’s gaze and Ellis smiled too.
Jon nodded at Rudy. “You should bottle that and make yourself rich.”
“I’m afraid people might OD,” Ellis said.
“Not sure if you can OD on happiness. I mean, Rudy seems to do fine.”
He did do fine and when Rudy was sad he recovered quickly. It seemed only a few bad memories lingered in his simple mind.
Both Ellis and Jon struggle with their pasts and their present; neither finding joy in life to barely keep their sanity. They need to understand the simple joy in life that Rudy has. Live in the moment, don’t focus on things you can’t change.
There are some very serious topics found within this book: PTSD, attempted suicide, intellectual disability, gay bashing, and violence to name a few. And yet, this book is filled with hope. Hope that even with all of these challenges, there is hope and joy to be found in the living.
One point I would like to make is the brilliance of how Wilder writes Rudy’s interactions. We get to see how exhausting it is living with someone who is intellectually disabled, yet joy can be found in the childlike vision that Rudy sees in life.
“The buggy is for the microwave and the groceries.”
“Don’t forget the oatmeal.”
“Can we get cereal?”
“I’ll think about it.”
“I like the cereal with the colored marshmallows.”
They headed to household goods. “If we get cereal, it won’t be the ones with marshmallows.”
“Why not? I’m not allergic.”
A lady pushing a buggy frowned at Rudy. Ellis pretended he didn’t notice. “You know why.”
Rudy laughed. “I remember now.”
“We can’t buy cereal with marshmallows because it makes my poop blue.”
We can see how tiring it is to have to constantly be vigilant with someone who has the mind of a 6-year-old but the physical body of a 35-year-old. I really felt bad and admired how strong Ellis was. He could still loved and nurtured Rudy even when he was frustrated.
What could be better?
There were times when the pacing was slow, and the head hopping between Ellis, Jon, and Rudy can be jarring. We are left at the ending with a cliffhanger, so be prepared for that. Another thing that annoyed me, while not the author’s fault, was the misleading length of the book. It is a good percentage of the book at the end that are samples of other books. So you are left thinking that you have more of the book to go than it truly is.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I loved how the author got us into the minds of all three characters and made us feel their challenges, hopes, and fears. We are left wanting more and luckily there are two books after this to complete the story.