Title: The Brothers Story
Author: Katherine Sturtevant
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Concepts: jobs, scarcity, poverty, incentives, wealth
Review: The winter of 1683 to 1684, one of the coldest ever in English history, presented enormous challenges to poor households who had insufficient means to protect themselves from the bitter cold. Twin brothers Kit and Christy, their mother, and their little brother, a family living in extreme poverty in the English countryside, counted themselves among those who had to resort to begging to stay alive. Yet Kit knew he could make something better of himself, and he desperately wanted to follow the lead of other young people from his village and seek his fortune in London.
The only thing that stopped Kit was the obligation he felt to care for his developmentally disabled twin, who needed constant companionship and support. Ultimately the cold and the drudgery led Kit to abandon Christy and leave for London. His situation did turn around when he found employment with a painter who paid room and board and a small wage. He enjoyed the new experiences of city life, including a large fair on the frozen Thames and the attentions of a young maid, but he felt incredible guilt at the knowledge that his improved well-being came at the expense of his brother.
This engrossing book takes the reader across a sweeping range of emotions and situations as a well-meaning young man struggles against extreme odds to support loved ones, find a source of income, avoid new temptations, and make difficult decisions about his future and that of the brother he left behind. Note that the book has some sexual content that makes it more appropriate for older middle grade and young adult readers. The Brothers Story is difficult to set down once the reader has embarked with Kit on his journey to find a way out of backbreaking poverty and despair.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children