by Nathacha Appanah, translation by Geoffrey Strachan
Graywolf Press, $14.00, 164 pages
Living on an island, unaware of a distant world war, a boy who is born into poverty still finds joy in his daily life. After being devastated by the tragic loss of his two brothers, his parents move to another part of the island, There his father takes a job as a prison guard that comes with a house in the forest. The prison, on the island of Mauritius, holds Jewish refugees who tried to escape Europe during World War II. While playing near the barbed wire at the prison, Raj meets and becomes friends with a boy. The events that follow, including the escape of his new friend, will change his future and haunt him for the rest of his life.
The author takes the reader into the life and mind of Raj and his struggling parents in this endearing story of courage and friendship. The story is told from the perspective of a child and as the memories of an elderly man. The Last Brother is a reminder of the innocence and idealism of childhood. The characters are believable and unforgettable.
Reviewed by Fran Byram