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The year is 1867, the South has been defeated, and the American Civil War is over. But the conflict goes on. Yankees now patrol the streets of Richmond, Virginia, and its citizens, both black and white, are struggling to redefine their roles and relationships. By day, fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother Jeremiah to the meetings of a group whose stated ...

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The year is 1867, the South has been defeated, and the American Civil War is over. But the conflict goes on. Yankees now patrol the streets of Richmond, Virginia, and its citizens, both black and white, are struggling to redefine their roles and relationships. By day, fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother Jeremiah to the meetings of a group whose stated mission is to protect Confederate widows like their mother. But as the true murderous intentions of the group, now known as the Ku Klux Klan, are revealed, Shad finds himself trapped between old loyalties and what he knows is right.  

In this powerful and unflinching story of a family caught in the period of Reconstruction, A.B. Westrick provides a glimpse into the enormous social and political upheaval of the time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Westrick makes an impressive debut with this post–Civil War novel, set in Richmond, Va., told from the point of view of self-proclaimed Confederate son and “good old boy” Shadrach Weaver. A skilled tailor’s assistant, 14-year-old Shad is dyslexic and plays second fiddle to his “hothead” older brother, Jeremiah, since their father died at Gettysburg. Circumstances bring Shad into contact with the liberally minded Perkinson household, in which black servants and children are not just treated as equals, but educated. Invited to trade sewing lessons for reading lessons, he uneasily accepts. Shad’s initial shock at his situation turns to appreciation, creating a turbulent conflict between his growing feelings for the black teachers and children and his loyalty to the Ku Klux Klan, to which he has recently sworn allegiance, even as he recoils from its cruel actions. Readers will undoubtedly be taken aback by Shad’s hatred of Yankees and contempt for blacks, but Westrick generally achieves her goal of capturing Shad’s “emerging capacity to question his circumstances,” while drawing a vivid picture of the embittered, violent environment of 1867 Richmond. Ages 10–up. Agent: Leigh Feldman, Writers House. (Sept.)
VOYA - Laura Perenic
Sometimes it seems authors and publishers hear wishes. Great historical fiction always feels like a gift. Brotherhood is a compelling tale of Richmond, Virginia, and its inhabitants during the Reconstruction Era. Westrick uses "brotherhood" to evoke both the familial relationship between Jeremiah and Shadrach, and their involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. Unable to read or to succeed in his mother's eyes, Shadrach makes two wildly disparate decisions: bargaining to receive schooling and taking orders from the The Cyclops, a KKK leader. Shad puts himself in an awkward position. He hopes to take over Weaver's Fine Tailoring, but the business will pass to his older brother. Skilled at measurements and sewing, Shad earns access to the Perkinson household, where he meets carpet bagger George Nelson. He is a lynchpin character with his own set of progressive and conservative views that are at odds with those of the Yankees and the Confederacy. Shad's struggle to understand slavery and its demise is compounded by his emotions for Miss Rachel. Miss Rachel's outspoken nature fascinates and frightens Shad. Can he really fancy a girl is who smarter than him and black? A family embroiled in a war of weapons and words, the Weavers have much to overcome. Hate speech proliferates, as well as evil deeds. A short disclaimer at the beginning reminds us that people did—and still do—speak cruelly about humanity. Some readers will find the novel shocking but it is all necessary for achieving an aim. There are lessons about intolerance and discrimination we still have not learned. Brotherhood is neither tedious, nor didactic. Westrick skillfully leads the reader toward conclusions regarding racism; letting each epiphany occur organically. All the characters, dialogue, and action support each other deftly and with no filler. Reviewer: Laura Perenic
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—The Civil War is over and Richmond, Virginia, is occupied by Yankee soldiers. A secret society of men and boys has begun meeting with the stated mission of protecting Confederate widows. Fourteen-year-old Shadrach Weaver follows his older brother to a gathering and ends up being initiated into the Ku Klux Klan. Shad likes the feeling of brotherhood the group provides. On an errand for his family's tailor shop to the house of a local teacher, Shad, who suffers from dyslexia, makes arrangements to trade his sewing skills for reading lessons. He is surprised when the teacher arranges for him to work with African Americans; he knows he has to keep this secret, but it's not long before the existence of the school is discovered. Shad's brother, a loyal KKK member, becomes involved in a plot to bring the school, along with its students and teachers, to a violent end. Shad must decide between remaining loyal to his family and the brotherhood or warning the people for whom he has developed feelings of friendship and respect. Debut author Westrick does an excellent job of re-creating post-Civil War Richmond and giving voice to the resentments of its inhabitants. She explores the implications of brotherhood and demonstrates how right and wrong can be so intricately entwined that whatever choice one makes can result in disaster. A welcome addition to classroom discussions.—Cary Frostick, Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Set in Richmond, Va., in 1867, Westrick's debut affords readers a look into the mind and heart of a reluctant member of the Ku Klux Klan. Fourteen-year-old Shad Weaver's life is full of secrets. Desperate to learn to read, he begins attending a school for African-Americans, offering tailoring lessons to the students there in exchange for the instruction he receives. He is very careful not to be seen, especially by any members of the other secret group to which he belongs, the Klan. Shad is deeply ambivalent about the brotherhood, appreciating it for the camaraderie it fosters but becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the violence it perpetuates. When the head teacher of the African-American school is murdered and Shad's brother Jeremiah is fingered, Shad must rely on his own evolving moral compass to help him figure out what to do. While it becomes a bit tedious at times, Shad's inner dialogue is crucial, as it reveals his struggle against the almost overwhelming social forces seeking to shape him into an instrument of racist violence. The constant sense of danger evoked will keep readers interested, and while the resolution is not entirely satisfying, it is nonetheless realistic. From the perspective of a curious, compassionate young man caught up in Klan violence, this coming-of-age story will spark fruitful discussions about race, identity, social pressure and loyalty. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670014392
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile
  • Publication date: 9/12/2013
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 310,947
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

A.B. Westrick is the daughter of Southerners who sought to leave the South behind.  Raised in Pennsylvania, she later moved with her husband to Virginia and spent hours walking Richmond’s brick streets, wondering how her ancestors fared during and after the War Between the States. Brotherhood grew from these wonderings.

A.B. Westrick has been a teacher, paralegal, literacy volunteer, administrator, and coach for teams from Odyssey of the Mind to the Reading Olympics.  A graduate of Stanford University and Yale Divinity School, she received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of the Fine Arts in 2011. Brotherhood is her first novel.

A.B. Westrick and her family live in Mechanicsville, Virginia.   Visit her at

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2014

    This fascinating look at the aftermath of the Civil War in Richm

    This fascinating look at the aftermath of the Civil War in Richmond, VA, goes far to explain the long-lingering divides between the North and the South, and takes into account class as well as race. As a young, white, rural, farmboy who lost his daddy in the war, Shad finds himself both drawn to the Ku Klux Klan and repelled by his older brother's bullying tactics. He's equally drawn to and repelled by the hidden school that is teaching the recently-freed slaves to read and write. The story lies in Shad's attempts to figure out what he should do in this situation. The answers, while far from easy, make for a page-turning story.

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