May Contain Spoilers
Sometimes I read a book that wrenches such an emotional response that I am reluctant to review it. How can I ever adequately explain how that story made me feel? I went into My Brother’s Husband not really knowing what it was about. Sure, I knew that someone’s brother’s husband was going to show up in Japan, and that was about it. Imagine my delight when all of the characters were fleshed out, and made me empathize with each of them, despite their sometimes thoughtless behavior (Yaichi, I’m talking to you).
When Mike comes to visit his deceased husband’s family in Japan, he initially receives a mixed greeting from Yaichi, Ryoji’s older brother. The story is told from Yaichi’s point of view, and after his first strained introduction to Mike, he slowly begins to reexamine his reaction to both Mike and to his twin brother. While Yaichi is reluctant at first to have Mike stay with him and his young daughter, Kana, her insistence that he offer the same hospitality to Mike that he would to any other member of the family, has him offering a room to him. Nothing like having your kid point out your bad manners.
Wow. What an emotional read. I liked that Kana, with her unwavering acceptance of her new uncle, forced Yaichi to reexamine his own biases and feelings toward his deceased brother. While he was content to blame Ryoji for the distance that developed between them after Ryoji came out to him, Yaichi slowly started to realized that with his silence and inability to discuss his brother’s sexuality, he was pushing Ryoji away. This is a quiet story, focusing on innate prejudices and the true meaning of family. I feel sad for Yaichi that he wasted so much time that he could have spent with Ryoji, because he couldn’t grapple with his own insecurities and issues with accepting Ryoji for who he was.
Grade: 4.75 stars
Review copy borrowed from my local library
About the book:
Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo; formerly married to Natsuki, father to their young daughter, Kana. Their lives suddenly change with the arrival at their doorstep of a hulking, affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan, who declares himself the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji. Mike is on a quest to explore Ryoji’s past, and the family reluctantly but dutifully takes him in. What follows is an unprecedented and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation can change the preconceptions about it and prejudices against it.