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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Review: Brother by Ania Ahlborn

Adult, Horror, Thriller, 
Publication.Date  September 29th 2015
Published By:  Gallery Books
AuthorAnia Ahlborn

Brother on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

From the bestselling horror author of Within These Walls and The Bird Eater comes a brand-new novel of terror that follows a teenager determined to break from his family’s unconventional—and deeply disturbing—traditions.

Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place…
Once, when he had asked Lauralynn why she thought Momma got so mad, Lauralynn shrugged her shoulders and said that she didn't know for sure but thought Momma was sad. The answer hadn't made sense to him then, and as he waited for the inevitable crack of Momma's belt, it didn't make sense now. Sadness, as he understood it, brought tears; but rather than tears, Momma dealt blows. 
Michael suspected that Momma had learned how to be cruel from her own parents. Maybe their meanness had been so severe that it had rubbed off on Claudine like a contagious disease. 
If that house were alive, it would feed on happiness and breathe out nothing but screaming and hate.
“I like it when they squirm,” he told Claudine one evening. "I like hurtin'em."

"Nobody's gonna hear ya," Reb whispered to himself, his eyes fixed o the struggling girl. "Nobody's gonna save ya. Nobody's gonna remember. I'm gonna wipe ya out."

     Dark, disturbing, gut-wrenching and violent, Brother is perfect for extreme horror enthusiasts, but only those who are not afraid to explore the slimiest, most terrifying corners of human soul. You will feel filthy and hollowed out when you're done, you will need a long, hot shower and you will never - I repeat: NEVER - get this story out of your head. Be warned: proceed with caution. 

     After reading Ahlborn's previous book, Within These Walls, I already knew she writes exactly my flavor of horror. She quickly became one of my favorite writes and made my "auto-buy" list. I can't believe that I am saying that, but after reading Brother, I think I love her even more than I love my one and only undisputed king of horror: Stephen King. But maybe "love" is not the right word exactly; I am full of respect for this woman, but I am also shit-less scared of her. 

     Brother is, hands down, the most disturbing, appalling, gutting story I have ever read. It got me more than Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, and if you've read that one, you know just how f**ked up it was. Well, Brother takes that mind-fuckery to a whole new level of mental and emotional slaughterhouse. I kid you not, this book is powerful, and therefore, dangerous. I guess some people will be affected by it more than others, because it totally depends on your level of empathy and at what point in life this book will find you. If you're emotionally vulnerable, depressed or if you're a new parent, you might seriously want to skip it for now and move along to something less threatening. This book is absolutely not for the squeamish or faint of heart. You need to have a strong stomach, too, or at least keep a bucket handy. And you can later thank me for warning you. 

     In the heat of the humid and sticky summer, we arrive at an isolated, old farmhouse in the middle of woods, far away from the rest of the world. Where no one can hear the screams. And the screams are piercing, primal, and entirely hopeless. 

    Michael was "adopted" by the Morrows when he was only 3 (or so) years old. Rebel found him at the corner of his yard, trying to sell some of his old toys. They took him, they renamed him, and they told him he's lucky to have a new family, because his old family did not want him anymore. Michael's life became one, never-ending nightmare. 

     I don't want to go too deep into discussing the plot line, because this book is constructed in a way that requires the reader to go in blindfolded. That's the only way you can fully appreciate the masterful foreshadowing and intensely creepy atmosphere of the story. What you need to know, though, is that Brother is a book strictly for adults and should be read by adults only. And that comes from someone who started reading Stephen King and Graham Masterton at the age of 13, but yes, while you can read the two aforementioned authors as a teen and get away mentally unscathed, you can't do the same with Brother

     As the author brings more light to the past secrets of the Morrow family, the atmosphere gets heavier, the mood - darker, and the walls begin to close in on you. I felt physically ill while reading this book. I did not cry or vomit (though, honestly, I came pretty close to both), but that's only because I was too shocked and uneasy to even move a muscle. This is the first book that had me in invisible shackles that I could actually feel as they were weighing me down. I felt breathless (not in a good way) and stuck in a huge jar of molasses. 

     The terror of Brother is both gruesome and in-your-face, as well as sophisticated and deliberately planned. This book will leave you not only terrified, but also changed. The darkness and hopelessness of the book is completely uncompromising. Up until the last seconds and against all odds, you're clinging to the faint hope that somehow it will turn out fine, even though, deep inside, you know better. And despite everything you've witness you can't bring yourself to feel angry at the characters. You can't bring yourself to hate them. Instead, you feel profoundly sad, beaten-down, broken to pieces and ready to give up. 

     Brother filled my heart with rage and sorrow. A vicious cycle of hurt and violence, suffering and pain. And no hope. No hope at all...

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