The Dead Brother Club by Coren Beck

The Dead Brother Club

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A pastor’s memoir chronicles his embrace of faith as a way of giving his life purpose in the wake of devastating tragedy.

In 1988, 13-year-old Beck didn’t have much going for him. Being a chubby teenager was bad enough. Worse, in the economically depressed town of Mackey Point in New Brunswick, Canada, opportunities for growth were scarce at best. No wonder his brother, Billy, left to find work in Ontario. Unfortunately, when Billy returned, tragedy struck. A car ride with friends proved fatal, and just like that, the teenage older brother was gone, putting Beck in the so-called “Dead Brother Club.” Wracked by survivor’s guilt, Beck went through the many stages of grief, including denial and anger. He recounts how membership in the Dead Brother Club had its privileges. All he had to do was play the role of “Billy’s Sad Brother” and milk the attention for all it was worth. Beck describes his parents’ increasing dependence on the bottle and the endless silences at home that further enhanced his sense of hopelessness. Only after a failed suicide attempt did Beck realize that he needed another way out of the madness. A timely invitation to a youth group was just the ticket. Beck slowly found an anchor in the church and in Jesus; he even quit university (and his study of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard) to attend a Bible school, eventually becoming a pastor. Crucial mentors helped along the way, most notably Travis Benson, who served as sympathetic shoulder and key influencer, helping Beck on his path to self-discovery. In the end, however, Beck’s relationship with Travis, who later married and resettled, remains underexplored, and Travis’ exit feels a tad abrupt. Interspersed with Beck’s memories are scenes set in the present with, for instance, Beck counseling a church member battling her own grief. The result is occasional problems with flow, as the narrative too often brakes abruptly before switching gears. Despite these minor hiccups, Beck’s raw and sincere voice shines through.

Engaging proof of the need for an anchor in our lives, adolescent or otherwise.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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