#68 – The O’Briens – Peter Behrens

The highly anticipated follow-up to Peter Behrens’ Governor General’s Literary Award-winning novel, The Law of Dreams.

The O’Briens follows the family from The Law of Dreams two generations later: Joe O’Brien is coming of age in a new century in remote Pontiac County, Quebec, with his two brothers and two sisters by his side. Their father has abandoned the family and died in the South African war; their frail mother has remarried the abusive and lecherous Mick Heaney. Joe and his siblings escape the poverty and violence of the Pontiac, but as Joe travels the continent, building a business and a bright young family with his wife, Iseult, he is never quite able to leave his past behind.

Told from the perspectives of Joe, Iseult, and their children and spanning the construction of the Canadian railroad as well as both world wars, this is a majestic novel that mirrors the scope and sweep of what Wilfrid Laurier calls “Canada’s Century.” Tragic, romantic, and as vivid as the novel that preceded it, The O’Briens is an epic of great heart, imagination, and narrative force.  – Publishers Website

I absolutely loved this book!  Set in a desolate part of the country where the family is poor, the mother abused by her second husband, the sons go off and start their adult lives.  Joe, being the ambitious one that he is starts off at starting his business at home doing things to keep his family afloat.  Then goes off and starts in the railway business.  As time goes on, he encounters such human debilitating sacrifices – the stillborn birth of his first child in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, Marriage, War, Love and Loss where his brother doesn’t come back as himself,  the second world war, where it touches him yet again with his own children as he is a prominent member of the City of Montreal.

I loved the way the author weaved the families circumstances from the beginning to the modern-day 1940’s where it is as if Peter has his breaking point where he goes off on one of his so-called ‘business meetings’ ; what it does to each family member.  The feelings evoked reading this will not only touch your heart but your soul as well.  Nearing the end of the book, I cried as the family has been hit with the most fervent blow – the prodigal son returning home from war…..I will leave it at that.  If you go and get this book, you will know what I mean, I don’t want to give it all away, it isn’t the point.

This is the follow-up to the best-selling novel The Law of Dreams that Peter has published previously which won the Governor’s General Award.  I haven’t read the first book, but would love to see how everything in the 2nd novel loose ends work their way out, but the 2nd is absolutely a stand alone novel if you haven’t also read the first book.

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One thought on “#68 – The O’Briens – Peter Behrens

  1. After having read The O’Briens, and having had gotten way too familiar with the characters, I chanced upon an interview Behrens had on the book report radio program, and only then did it hit home that the O’Briens was the second of a sequel. I had no idea. Feeling slightly cheated I’m never the less happy to have been introduced to Mr Behrens.

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