Apart from telling a poignant story about two siblings, Brother & Sister is a fascinating exercise in writing a personal and methodical tale about someone who has come to feel, in some sense, like a stranger ... Keaton spends much of Brother & Sister appraising Randy’s collages and poems. Here, as in other parts of the book, her prose is meditative but not detached ... she doesn’t hesitate to name some of the more unpleasant parts of her family history ... Sibling relationships can be particularly hard to navigate without reliable social scripts. But Keaton seems to have arrived at these connections, and at the complicated tenderness required to conceive of such closeness, in part because she first looked outside herself—and her own memories of Randy—to better see him.
... there’s no tentative toe-testing. From page one, Keaton dives deep into a pool of regret about her relationship with her mentally ill younger brother, Randy Hall ... all of this — the openness about her failures with her brother, her negative reviews and gloomy diary entries, the sharp-edged analysis of her own appeal — seems not just a bid for relatability (perhaps just another way of saying human connection), but an exercise in the redemptive power of admitting weakness and error.
Brother & Sister ruminates on the mysteries that shape us—nurture or nature, volition or destiny. Disassembling the family narrative, Keaton asks big questions, bracing for the discomfort they provoke ... Randy seems to be forever after a glimmer. 'You know what I want?' he asks. 'I want to be part of the unexpected surprise. If I were to take a photograph of a person, I’d want to catch that person out of character.… I’d like to be witness to their unseen beauty.' In Brother & Sister, this is what Keaton so poignantly achieves.
This must have been a very difficult book for actress Diane Keaton to write ... It is a brave and honest book and is sure to resonate with so many families who struggle to understand the complexities of brain chemistry. Even very blessed individuals have struggles we may not know about.
In an effort to seek understanding of his struggles, Keaton eloquently and unflinchingly examines her brother’s life, drawing from excerpts of his poetry and her mother’s journals and letters in an attempt to find answers to her questions. The result is a cohesive, honest look at an entire family impacted by a troubled individual, as well as how Keaton maintained a bond with her sibling despite tremendous challenges ... Immersive and haunting, this is a must for Keaton’s fans and for those seeking to comprehend the nuances of sibling and family relationships.
Keaton thoughtfully wrestles with her guilty conscience while attempting to assemble a clearer picture of her brother’s nature. To do so, she relies heavily on excerpts from his poems, prose, and letters and those of family members. Yet Hall—described variously as 'a schizoid personality' by a doctor, an 'Almost Artist' by Keaton, and a 'genius' by his idealizing mother—remains inscrutable and difficult to sympathize with ... Keaton sheds her whimsical persona to explore difficult burdens that those with an unstable sibling will recognize.
... [a] resonant and melancholy family memoir ... The author utilizes family letters and journals to enhance the narrative ... This slim but weighty book stands as a haunting meditation on mortality, sibling love, mental illness, and regret.