Jewish Values: Things a Brother Knows, The

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Number of Pages: 
256 p.
The Things a Brother Knows helps us understand the effects of war on one family. The “star” older brother, Boaz, leaves home to become a Marine in some unnamed war in some desert land (Iraq?) Told from the point of view of Levi, his younger brother, we gradually learn how each member of the family coped while Boaz was away and how they react when he returns after three long years. However, Boaz’s return is not a real coming-home. He stays alone in his room most of the time—brooding, planning, crying, listening to the static on the radio. Finally, Boaz sets out on a journey, walking all the way. Levi doesn’t know where Boaz is going, but is determined to follow him. During their journey, the threads of the plot are gradually woven together. The adult characters are shown in a respectful way, not as caricatures as is so often the case in young adult fiction. Dov, the grandfather, and Abba both grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and served in the army. The family moved to the U.S. because Abba wanted to “raise his children in a melting pot. In the land of opportunity. In a country that wasn’t constantly defending its very right to exist.” As grim as this story may seem, it’s interlaced with deft touches of wry humor. Reinhardt uses apt images and powerful language. Sentences are varied—long or short, lyrical or choppy—depending on the emotion being conveyed. With its poignant themes of “tikkun olam” and of loyalty—to family, friends, and country—The Things a Brother Knows is highly recommended.
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