Have you ever finished a book and thought “The fuck did I just read?” Not that the book was bad, but you were not prepared to handle what went down in those pages. When I finally closed Ania Ahlborn’s Brother after reading it all in one siting, I had to sit in silence, staring at my wall, and try to make sense of what just happened. That doesn’t usually happen to me.
Set in Appalachia, Brother is about a family of cannibals (yup). They live out in the boonies, so the women they kidnap can scream all they want before they become dinner; no one will hear them. They’re careful to choose the “right” victims-drunks, hitchhikers, addicts. The kind of women no one will miss. The victims do have to look a certain way. Mama likes them young and blonde. I’ll let that percolate for a minute.
Our protagonist is their adopted son, Michael. Unlike other members of his family, he takes no pleasure in what they do. But he’s so beaten down, it doesn’t even occur to him to stop. It’s what the family does. And they’re all he has. When he meets Alice, a cute girl at a record store, he starts seriously thinking about running away to New York with this girl. Obviously the family won’t let him go that easily.
You can tell just by starting this book that there’s not going to be a happy ending, but I was unprepared for how messed up it was going to be. I guessed part of the twist, but there was another twist inside of that first twist (twistception?) and it made my jaw drop. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not a very emotive reader. I don’t yell at books like they’re horror movies (“RUN BITCH”). I don’t close the book and walk around the room, deciding if I really want to keep going. I don’t clench my fists as if I personally am going to have to take on a group of redneck Deliverance-wannabe cannibals. And I did all of those things while reading Brother. If you’re one of those people who love to be scared, pick this book up. Sweet dreams.