Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Case Against My Brother

by Libby Sternberg

Orphaned and penniless in Boston after the death of their mother, two teenage brothers move to Portland, Oregon to live with their uncle. The year is 1922. WWI has ended but Americans have a great fear of the spread of Bolshevism.

The campaign for the Oregon School Question provides the backdrop for this Teen/YA mystery. The Ku Klux Klan and other unsavory groups add fuel to the referendum, an anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic movement which would outlaw parochial and non-public schools in Oregon. The law was passed but eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The brothers are Polish Catholics who have never experienced the hatred and bigotry they are faced with in Portland. The oldest brother, Adam, is charged with burglary. Fifteen-year-old Carl, who has always relied upon Adam, must take control of the situation and find a way to clear the charges against Adam.

I really enjoyed this book. Good writing, great characterization, and a mystery set against a little-known historical event made for a very good reading experience. I had no idea that the Klan ever operated anywhere but the South. I like a book that entertains as well as teaches. Most books do both, some of the lessons are quite as noticeable. Maybe I should say some teach historical facts and others teach us something about ourselves. Some do both. This one did both.

One passage that I noted:
Things happen so fast in life you don't realize something important is going by. Or maybe it's that things happen too slowly and we don't take notice because we expect the big moments to be accompanied by fireworks. Instead, they glide past us so peacefully that we're tricked into thinking everything's as easy as the passage of time itself.


bermudaonion said...

I never knew that the Klan organized in the North either. Sounds like an interesting book.

Zibilee said...

I liked the sound of this book, but after reading the quote, I think it sounds like a must read for me. I like books set in this time period, and think it would be interesting to read something in the perspective of two orphan boys trying to find their way in an unfamiliar place. I would have never heard about this if you hadn't posted it, so thanks!