Synopses & Reviews
Stunned by the death of his mentally ill brother, forty-two-year-old Mark Barr returns to his hometown in West Virginia for his brother’s funeral only to find out that his estranged family has no such plans. Once back home, he discovers that his family’s memory, as well as his own, of his brother as a broken, hopeless schizophrenic is belied by mounting evidence that Steve Barr had lived a much fuller and more complicated life.
Armed with this new knowledge, Mark tears off on a mission to honor his brother’s memory with justice and compassion. As he fights to change the hearts of his father, mother, and middle brother, all of whom are fractured by anger, blame, and dysfunction, his own stability is rocked apart.
In tough, spare, beautiful language that pulls the reader into the peeling, gothic world of southern West Virginia, Don’t Forget Me, Bro shows us that at the heart of every human existence is the ultimate fear of being forgotten, of simply being gone.
“Read this book for the vivid imagery and sharp dialogue. Read it for the spot-on characterizations…”
Cummings adeptly leaves the reader suspended in that fragile moment before the next breath must be taken, yet strangely satisfied that compassion and justice have been attained. DON’T FORGET ME, BRO is a rare thing, a brilliant addition to a theme in which so many other novels under-achieve.”
– reviewed by Pauline Finch, Bookreporter.com
This revelatory novel, the first person narration and conversational style creates an immediate intimacy and draws the reader in; it’s as if you are a passenger along for the ride. The surprise ending, a bit of frenetic black comedy, is touching without being maudlin. All in all, a most satisfying read.
--reviewed by Sandy Raschke, CALLIOPE
"Memorable first-person narration...family-sensitive portrayal of mental illness."
“Universal enough that we can all find something in it that speaks directly to us.”
In this heartfelt journey, families contain all of it. There’s simply no tidy, predictable emotional or dynamic boundary to draw around these most primal of human units. Even those who don’t know their biological families have collective relationships that daily test their autonomy, individuality, self-worth and dreams. Cummings, who’s spent more than three decades writing about human beings, mainly of the everyday American persuasion, excels in uncovering those beneath-the-skin familial stories that realistically probe uncomfortable, often invisible, areas of life. When families and their perceptions of mental illness collide, as happens with such gritty persistence in Don't Forget Me, Bro all the discomfort of relationships, normal and otherwise, comes to the fore.
About the Author
John Michael Cummings' short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including The Iowa Review, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Kenyon Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.