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.