Once We Were Brothers
written by Ronald H. Balson
published by Berwick Court Publishing Co. and St. Martin’s Press Griffin
Why did I pick this book: I was asked by the publicist to review this book. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)
Did I enjoy this book: I did not.
About five years ago I stumbled across a wonderful little Jewish Deli in Pittsburgh, PA. I chatted with the elderly spitfire of a clerk behind the counter before deciding on my order. When I saw his hand reach for the cash register, I winced. For the first time in my life I saw the obscene green numbers tattooed on the inside of someone’s forearm. I immediately knew what they were. I’d read about them in school but seeing them on a living, breathing, human bundle of energy and joy behind that counter haunts me even today. WWII and the Holocaust are elements of our recent history that are still real – still raw.
I guess that’s why countless books, documentaries, poems, and movies cover this topic. Mr. Balson jumped into a crowded field when he decided to take on the stories of two men raised as brothers who would grow-up to be on opposite sides the “final solution.” I can’t argue that the story wasn’t a good one; it was. But it’s one we’ve heard before. And it’s one that’s been written better.
On the cover, it’s marketed as “the next Sarah’s Key.” I’ve read Sarah’s Key and it’s one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, Once We Were Brothers doesn’t quite measure up. The story moves along mostly with dry dialogue. And it moves at such a painfully slow pace, the reader loses interest. And therefore, loses interest in the outcome of what should be a beloved protagonist.
Would I recommend it: Only if you enjoy reading 400 page newspaper articles or legal briefs. If you want a top-notch WWII story, go for Sarah’s Key, Schindler’s List, Man’s Search for Meaning, and of course, Anne Frank’s Diary.
Will I read it again: No, I will not.
About the book: The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust.