Brotherly Love by Pete Dexter

October 31, 2007
By Hans Kaestner, Swarthmore, PA

“The old man lifts his hand, his thumb comes up, turning it into a gun, and pretends to fire a shot” (Dexter 24). This seemingly harmless and insignificant gesture is a great prediction of the rest of the story. Pete Dexter’s Brotherly Love is about the inner workings of the mob. From an early age, Peter’s life is all about conflict. After his neighbor accidentally runs over his sister, Peter’s father kills the neighbor and then disappears. Peter goes to live with his uncle, Philip Flood, the head of a criminal organization. After his uncle is killed, Peter’s cousin Michael takes over the family business. Most of the story is about Michael drifting deeper into a life of crime, while Peter tries to stay out. Peter’s true passion is boxing, and he will eventually have to choose between his cousin, the mobster, and his boxing trainer.

Pete Dexter has an interesting style of writing. He is very descriptive, yet he often does not clearly say what is happening, although it is usually obvious from the context. “He lifts the shotgun until its barrels are eyes too. One of them blinks, and it is the last thing Michael Flood sees in his life” (269). Dexter does not say “and then he shot him with the shotgun,” but you can tell what he means. This is a very elegant way of phrasing, and although it is sometimes confusing, it usually works to make the book more poetic.

Brotherly Love is a very good book for people who like drama and gangster stories. It also contains themes about family, friendship and love. The book is graphic, so I would not recommended it for young teenagers. However, this book captures emotions and themes everyone can understand.

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