Two brothers—one a family therapist (Howard), the other head of the Center for Jewish Renewal in Philadelphia and author of These Holy Sparks, 1983, etc. (Arthur)—come to terms with their past and present relationship. Despite a loving mother's constant plea to ``be close to your brother above all!,'' the Waskows have felt overriding anger and resentment toward each other throughout most of their lives. The early chapters here—told in the authors' alternating voices- -reconstruct childhood memories. While Howard devotes his boyhood Saturdays to playing sports, Arthur, always the outsider, passes his at the local library, ``disconnected from other people''; also painstakingly recalled are the boys' vibrant mother, Honey—who spends much of their youth fighting tuberculosis—and their infrequent trips to the local Orthodox synagogue. We're offered intimate, poignant glimpses of family tragedies—ranging from life- threatening illnesses to a suicide—but there's an inexplicable void regarding the brothers' wives, divorces, and children. At the nadir of their relationship, Howard once retaliates with, ``I really may have to kill you some day after all.'' But only a few years later, at midlife, the Waskows' relationship turns on the family's wrenching decision not to prolong Honey's life on a respirator—a crisis that forges a new bond between the brothers. Particularly interesting here are the Waskows' divergent responses to Judaism. Neither brother seems to have come to terms with the other's approach: To Howard, Judaism is an avoidable burden; to Arthur, it's a life-affirming force. When Howard remarries, the only Jewish reference at his wedding is a prayer devised by Arthur in their mother's memory. Arthur suggests that Howard's Judaism is limited to nostalgia, but Howard protests that his wedding banquet is richly Jewish, ``overspilled with whitefish, chopped liver...knishes, kishke, and challah.'' To the now mature Arthur, a leading figure in American Jewish renewal, this response is theologically bankrupt but no longer a personal insult. Despite enduring differences, the Waskows offer an appealing human drama in writing themselves back to fraternity.
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