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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Half Brother

ISBN: 9780385531962
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: 2/17/2015
Format: Other Format
My Rating: 3 Stars
A passionate, provocative story of complex family bonds and the search for identity set amid the ivy-covered walls of a New England boarding school.
When Charlie Garrett arrives as a young teacher at the shabby-yet-genteel Abbott School, he finds a world steeped in privilege and tradition. Fresh out of college and barely older than the students he teaches, Charlie longs to leave his complicated southern childhood behind and find his place in the rarefied world of Abbottsford.
Before long, he is drawn to May Bankhead, the daughter of the legendary school chaplain; but when he discovers he cannot be with her, he forces himself to break her heart, and she leaves Abbott, ”he believes forever. He hunkers down in his house in the foothills of Massachusetts, thinking his sacrifice has contained the damage, and controlled their fates.
But nearly a decade later, his peace is shattered when his golden-boy half brother, Nick, comes to Abbott to teach, ”and May returns as a teacher as well. Students and teachers alike are drawn by Nick's magnetism, and even May falls under his spell; when Charlie pushes his brother and his first love together, with what he believes are the best of intentions, a love triangle ensues that is haunted by desire, regret, and a long-buried mystery.
With wisdom and emotional generosity, LeCraw takes us through a year that transforms both the teachers and students of Abbott forever. Skillfully plotted, lyrical, and ambitious, The Half Brother is a powerful examination of family, loyalty, and love.

My Review

A special thank you to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
THE HALF BROTHER by Holly LeCraw, a complex tale an exploration of family bonds, loyalty and love, and dark family secrets, from southern Atlanta to prestigious New England.
After Harvard, Charlie Garrett, longs to leave his complicated southern childhood in Atlanta, behind and find his place in the world. When he arrives as a young teacher at the Abbott School in north –central Massachusetts near the Vermont border, he finds an entirely new world of privilege and tradition.
He managed to get the interview, without the help of his stepfamily connections, the Satterthwaites--After all Nicky is their real son, the one who had been born correctly.
Charlie soon meets Preston Bankhead, the school’s chaplain, and his daughter May, a student. Teaching English was his first job out of college, and he had met May Bankhead his second year there. He was still teaching freshmen, but she was not in his section. The following year he taught sophomores and she was there. He is drawn to May Bankhead, now age twenty and falls in love.
Charlie grew up with a single mom, in South Georgia, and later moved them to a nice guesthouse they rented in Buckhead owned by the McClatcheys, a mansion in an upscale neighborhood. Hugh Satterthwaite, Mrs. McClatchey’s brother, went to their church and often dropped by. Later they married and became his stepfather.
Years later when he met Preston and Florence Bankhead of New Orleans and Savannah, he knew immediately they were of the same ilk as the McClaltcheys and the Satterthwaites. Soon thereafter their life changed. Then Nicky came along. Hugh died later.
However, when May’s father is diagnosed with cancer, and Charlie returns home, he receives some shocking news and is forced to break up with May, not wanting her to know the truth about her father, and she leaves the school.
A decade later his world is turned upside down, when his golden boy half -brother, Nick comes to Abbott to teach, and to further complicate matters, May returns as a teacher as well. Students and teacher are drawn by Nick and even May falls under his spell.
Then Charlie and Nicky’s widowed mother arrives at the school for Christmas. She winds up in the hospital, setting the stage for a series of events and more shocking truths come out from May’s mom.
Living in Atlanta for many years, enjoyed the landmarks and familiar places, since I lived previously in Buckhead and familiar with the Oxford Book Store, the author’s family business which closed in the late nineties.
A contemporary novel of love, secrets, lies, betrayal. Even though THE HALF BROTHER, had a good set up, I was not invested in any of the characters. There are no likable characters and readers were not introduced to them, on any personal level.
May seemed immature, Nick self- absorbed, Charlie, a martyr, and the parents mostly living a lie. As many of reviewers mention, no human dynamics to allow you to get to know the characters in the book, and overall fell flat. When reading The Swimming Pool, the previous novel, had a similar overall feeling, a great premise; however, no likable characters to draw you in.
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