Having grown up with the wish only to be left in peace and be unrecognized by the world, Pandora is now rather content with her life in Iowa. She lives with her husband and two step-children while running an unexpectedly successful business. But things change when she receives a call from one of her older brother’s friends, saying her brother Edison has been down on his luck and living off his friends for too long. Pandora decides, against her husband’s wishes, to allow Edison to live with her family for two months, but she receives a nasty shock when she sees him at the airport – the brother she has always looked up to has put on several hundred pounds. The subsequent two months (and beyond) put a strain on her marriage that makes Pandora think twice about what it means to be loyal to your family.
Several years ago I was introduced to Lionel Shriver when I read The Post-Birthday World, and I was struck immediately by the rawness of her work. Shriver doesn’t write beautiful, elegant prose or create heroic protagonists. She’s one of my favorite writers for a different reason. Her insight into the human psyche is uncanny and at times frankly embarrassing. She doesn’t sugarcoat the human condition or the average person’s emotions. Her protagonists’ thoughts can be shocking, but only until you realize that you’ve though the exact same thing, but would never admit it out loud. In her books, brother betrays sister, wife cheats on husband, and no one is ever truly sorry.
Big Brother is not a feel-good story. I haven’t read anything by Shriver that could be considered as such. Honestly, I’ve sometimes found her work hard to get through because of its brutality in depicting the average person (the best example being in We Need To Talk About Kevin). That being said, I always love reading her work and this book was no exception.
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