author: Ania Ahlborn
published: September 29th 2015
first line: Michael twisted in his bed, the threadbare blanket he’d used all his life tangled around his legs.
rated: 4 out of 5
From the bestselling horror author of Within These Walls and The Bird Eater comes a terrifying novel 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…
Brother by Ania Ahlborn is easily one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. It was crazy. I am a fan of horror so I was intrigued when I saw the premise and I chose this as my read for FraterFest last week.
Set in 1980, the book centers on the Morrow family who live in an old farmhouse in the deep backwoods of Virginia. Nineteen year old Michael lives with his older sister Misty Dawn, his older brother Reb and his parents Claudine and Wade. Wade is a Vietnam veteran and Claudine is the head of the family and evil personified.
The Morrow’s are serial killers. Reb and Michael are the ones who bring the victims home, always young girls, and Wade, Claudine and Reb torture and murder them. Michael’s job is to clean up and get rid of everything. Misty is really the only one who does not participate in the killings.
Michael has been doing this most of his life so this is his normal. Reb manipulates and makes sure he keeps Michael obedient and afraid of him. Michael is close to his sister Misty so the thought of running away is not an option without her because he knows she’ll be murdered if he leaves her behind. Claudine never hesitates to beat the siblings for any little thing, she hates Misty in particular. When Michael meets a girl named Alice in town one day things change for him. He starts to fall for her and he starts to dream about leaving with her and maybe starting a new life. But there is always his family and the sense of duty he feels for them that keeps him doing what he is doing.
This book was equal parts sad, disturbing, scary and gory. These characters are all sick. Michael is the only one who shows any kind of human emotion, which is crazy because he’s involved in all of the atrocities the family commits. He feels remorse but he is as guilty as they are. The story flashbacks to let the reader know how the family came to be and although the past is heartbreaking when it comes to the Morrow children, it doesn’t excuse what is happening. I kept wondering why Michael didn’t just go to the police. Even though he took part in the violence, he could atone for it somewhat by turning them in and stopping any more killing. The author spins the story in a way that you do pity him.
Reading this book was akin to watching a horror film, think Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While telling a terrifying story, the author does a great job at giving Michael some heart and at portraying the dark and twisted sibling rivalry that fuels Reb. I won’t go into details but wow, the plot kept twisting and turning. That plot twist towards the end had me yell out “no way!” while I read. It all culminated towards a gut wrenching finale.
“Michael hesitated, a sudden pang of guilt turning the axe heavy in his hands. He was starting to see how he could separate himself from the responsibility of the things he’d done in his life. The fear. The manipulation. The sense of duty that had been beaten into him. Without the Morrows, he would have died in the Appalachian hills, cold and alone.”- Brother by Ania Ahlborn
I recommend Brother if you enjoy well executed dark stories that twist and turn and leave you speechless. Be brave though, this one is not for the faint of heart.
About the author:
Born in Ciechanow Poland, Ania has always been drawn to the darker, mysterious, and sometimes morbid sides of life. Her earliest childhood memory is of crawling through a hole in the chain link fence that separated her family home from the large wooded cemetery next door. She’d spend hours among the headstones, breaking up bouquets of silk flowers so that everyone had their equal share.
Author of nine novels, Ania’s books have been lauded by the likes of Publisher’s Weekly, The New York Daily News, and The New York Times. Some titles have been optioned for film.
Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ania currently lives in Greenville, South Carolina.
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of Brother by Ania Ahlborn. Some of these links are affiliate links.