A Brother’s Influence
By Kim Stafford
Trinity University Press, $16.95, 200 pages
“His suicide was my book of genesis: and darkness was on the face of the waters-stubborn darkness that no hand could brush away.” (p.165)
In 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared, Kim Stafford shares his struggle to live with, and perhaps grow beyond, his older brother Bret’s suicide twenty years past. Kim journeys through his memories to ponder: What did I miss? How did I miss it? When did I lose touch with my brother? His stories are filled with the joy, wonder, delight and danger of a childhood and young adulthood growing up in nature, mostly in Oregon. As a teenager, Bret challenged the militaristic drills of the Boy Scouts; they both left. In college at the University of Oregon, separately and together they skipped classes to go hiking and camping. Bret spent his freshman year at Grinnell University in Iowa; Kim never asked what happened there and Bret kept it secret.
The book is divided into sections which get their titles from the ritual bedtime chant the boys said together; the chapters are brief checkerboard sketches of growing up in the shadow of that brother, growing separately, being adults with families and responsibilities. The style is spare and poetic, story and reflection, moving ponderously, smoothly and touchingly back and forth across time.
Reviewed by Mary-Lynne Monroe