It's not often I pick up a book for review and go straight from the blurb on the back to the first page and then spend the rest of the afternoon reading. It takes a strong hook to distract me from the work I really should be doing.
This is one of these books that reaches out to touch the reader in an almost physical way - it made me cry and I am still thinking about it a week later.
My Brother Simple by Marie-Aude Murail – Bloomsbury. Children, Young Adult. Paperback RRP $15.99
Isabelle was amazed when she saw the two brothers walk in. They were alike but the younger one looked older. He had brooding eyes fed by some internal fire, while the other one had eyes so clear they looked like windows open to the sky. You almost expected to see swallows flitting across them.
This is the story of two brothers, Kleber and Simple (whose real name is Barnaby). Simple has severe learning difficulties and their father, in the early stages of a new relationship, wants to put him in an institution. Kleber loves his brother and can’t bear to think of that. So even though he is still in the last year of high school, he takes Simple and the money his mother left them when she died, and moves out.
But finding somewhere to rent with a brother like Simple is not easy. People are nervous, distrustful, cruel and even frightened. When he finally finds a flat-share, nothing turns out as planned. In the beginning Simple was the problem but as time goes by, he is in turn, the solution to each flatmate’s problem.
Simple is quick to admit he is an i-di-ot but character is measured in different ways. His brain might be small but his heart is huge. He changes the lives of everyone he touches. In the end, it is through Simple that Kleber, who was willing to sacrifice so much, is rewarded with exactly what he always wanted.
This is a gentle story, poignant and filled with beautiful images. A coming of age tale with the most unlikely of heroes.