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My Brother Michael

My Brother Michael

5.0 4
by Janis Owens

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Winner of the Chatauqua South Award for Fiction

Out of the shotgun houses and deep, shaded porches of a west Florida mill town comes this extraordinary novel of love and redemption as told by Gabriel Catts. On the eve of his fortieth birthday, Gabe attempts to reconcile a family shattered by his betrayal of his older brother, Michael. As Gabe contends with a host


Winner of the Chatauqua South Award for Fiction

Out of the shotgun houses and deep, shaded porches of a west Florida mill town comes this extraordinary novel of love and redemption as told by Gabriel Catts. On the eve of his fortieth birthday, Gabe attempts to reconcile a family shattered by his betrayal of his older brother, Michael. As Gabe contends with a host of personal demons, he recounts his lifelong love for his brother’s wife, Myra, whose own demons threaten to overwhelm all three of them. Circumstance and passion push them beyond the moral boundaries of their close-knit community in this intimate view of a Southern family.

The story told in My Brother Michael is retold in Myra Sims, Janis Owens' second novel, from Myra's point of view

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Of all the novels written about families, very few have been able to make the reader blood kin. My Brother Michael does this, in depth and power. To an almost worked-out tradition, Janis Owens brings an astonishing renewal."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a first novel that oozes Southern authenticity like honey over a hot biscuit, Gabriel Catts, a Civil War historian and academic raised in a small north Florida mill town, tells the turbulent story of his unquenchable love for his brother's wife. The son of a poor day laborer and a strict though loving Baptist mother, young Gabriel falls in love with Myra, the girl next door, whose father is savagely abusive. No sooner is Gabriel attracted, however, than Myra leaves to live with relatives in Alabama. Nearly a decade later, Gabriel, visiting home from college, finds that Myra has returned to town and has married his own brother, Michael. Heartbroken but resigned, Gabriel leaves for graduate school up north. Years later, he comes back once more and is invited to live with his brother, who has become an absent super-provider, working endless hours at the mill to buy a pretty house for his wife and to back his brother's intellectual dreams. Ostensibly writing a book but unable to suppress his love for Myra, who, unbeknownst to him, has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and put on lithium, Gabriel plunges into an affair with her and tries to convince her to marry him. Myra's pregnancy precipitates Gabriel's exile for another decade. After his brother dies at 43 and Gabriel weathers another heartrending reunion with Myra, their love child and his family, he sits down to grapple with his life story. Though Owen's fraternal melodrama can't avoid sentimentality, her fine writing and the ring of her natural voice will carry readers along like a tale told on a porch on a sultry Southern night. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Despite a slightly irregular storyline, this first novel is certain to create a loyal readership for Owens. The narrative voice of Gabriel Catts, who relates the story of his lifelong love for his brother's wife, is nothing short of stunning. Myra, loved by both Gabriel and his brother, Michael, lives a life irrevocably tainted by a childhood of abuse and incest at the hands of her father. Added to the characters' other emotional demons-insanity and infidelity-the story could have been a dark and depressing one. Instead, because Owens depicts these demons against the backdrop of Southern cultural and familial restrictions that ultimately offer salvation, the story is one of quiet victory. Recommended for libraries with Southern fiction collections.-Susan C. Colegrove, Athens Regional Lib. System, Ga.
Kirkus Reviews
A luminously written first novel that celebrates—not always convincingly—a surviving sibling's redemption and gratitude.

When younger brother Gabe Catts comes home to north Florida for his brother Michael's funeral, he's been drinking, and he soon flees the family and heads back to New York, where he teaches college. Gabe is overcome by more than conventional grief, it seems, and the story he tells is as much a journey of self- discovery as of brotherly love and destructive jealousy. It begins in the small neighborhood of Magnolia Hill, where Gabe grew up and where his mother still lives. His father was a millworker. He had two siblings, a sister, Candace, and then Michael, named (like Gabe) after an angel. Next door, in a tumbledown house, lived the Sims—a mother and father with two children, Ira and Myra. Gabe falls in love with Myra. But the Simses are different: Dad beats up Ira and sexually abuses Myra, and when Dad is arrested, the family moves away. Meanwhile, Michael, a promising baseball player, turns down offers and stays home to help his parents, and Gabe, who's never forgotten Myra, goes on to college and graduate school. Myra comes back to Magnolia Hill and soon marries Michael, a union that the self-absorbed Gabe finds tough to accept. He flees north, combining a successful academic career with bouts of heavy, near- suicidal, drinking. Having taken time off to write a book, he returns home once more, seduces and impregnates Myra, by now being treated for schizophrenia, then flees when his betrayal is discovered. Ten years later, dying from cancer, Michael asks Gabe to look after his family. He also leaves him a lot of money, and with some bumps along the way, Gabe finds both happiness and his soul, just as his brother had hoped.

A bit too schematic, but a refreshingly different take on fraternal rivalry.

Product Details

Pineapple Press, Inc.
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.08(w) x 8.96(h) x 0.88(d)

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Meet the Author

Janis Owens was born in Marianna, a small town in the Florida Panhandle. Her father was a preacher and insurance salesman who moved his family to Mississippi and Louisiana before settling back in north Florida. She earned a degree in English and Southern History from the University of Florida. She is also the author of Myra Sims, the companion to My Brother Michael.

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My Brother Michael 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
PattiAnnRA More than 1 year ago
A superb telling of a difficult story.  Janis Owens has an uncanny ability to tell a story that rings true and won't let you put it down to the very end.  DO NOT PUT IT DOWN UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THE LAST WORD!  It is so very worth it.
MinnesotaReader More than 1 year ago
Janis Owens has magnificently written a wonderfully bittersweet novel. Chapter by chapter, she builds a powerful story of family, love, betrayal and redemption. Set in a north Florida mill town, narrator Gabriel Catts shares the story of his lifelong love for Myra Sims. While still a young boy growing up in the poor Magnolia Hill neighborhood, he falls in love with the girl next door, sweet Myra. When signs of abuse at the hands of her cruel, incestuous father are exposed, he is arrested and the family moves away. Years pass and Gabe returns home from college and is devastated to find that Myra has married his older brother, Michael. With a broken heart, Gabe leaves again. Still love-struck when he returns home years later, he is unable to resist and has a love affair with his brother's wife. The resulting pregnancy and discovery of his betrayal cause him to flee once more. Following his brother's death, he begins writing down his poignant life journey. Ms. Owens has brilliantly captured the culture and charm of the South in this compelling book. The storyline is very imaginative and captivating. The emotionally complex characters are extremely well developed and interesting. This is the perfect story from start to finish and I absolutely loved it! There are universal lessons about family and self throughout this amazing book. I highly recommend that you grab a copy and start reading! Meanwhile, I'm heading out the door to buy MYRA SIMS, the second book in this trilogy!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reviewer: Arline Curtiss from Escondido, CA United States If you've lost your belief in true love this book is for you. No matter how cynical you are you will fall in love with My Brother Michael. What a beautifully written, sad, funny, romantic book. These are people you can care about. Age-old themes: money, poverty, incest, sibling rivalry, a brother's mistake, a son's fury, a mother's love. You've known these people before, just not the inside story of what has really gone on in their lives. Brilliantly written. Boldly beautiful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book at the library not having heard anything about it and I cannot remember finding a book that I wanted to read more than once in a very long time but this is one that I am sure I will enjoy reading several times. The characters are so believable that when my friend and I discussed the book, we found ourselves talking as if we knew them personally. This is a book that I could not put down until I had finished it. Also enjoyed Myra Simms equally as well and cannot wait for the author's next book. What a story teller we have in Mrs. Owens.