Brother Alive

Grove. Jul. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9780802159762. $26. F
DEBUT Khalid’s truly genre-defying work, one the most exciting debuts in recent years, tells the story of three adopted brothers—Dayo, Iseul, and Youssef—raised by an imam in Staten Island. As the trio reaches adulthood, lifelong mysteries begin to unravel, and the brothers are forced to follow their adoptive father to a futuristic city being built by radicals in Saudi Arabia. As intelligent as it is imaginative, the novel attacks various systems of control—religion, yes, but more explicitly capitalism—that would strip people of their very humanity. Here are the impossibly blurred lines between the personal and the global, East and West, godly and godless; it’s where man’s soul is said to be an invoice, and geopolitics infects all. Khalid’s vision can be bleak, even cynical, but it’s also remarkably cogent and underscored with a profound tenderness. It’s a love story—many times over, actually—wrapped inside a searing indictment, a rage against the many machines that would sacrifice people at the altar of capital. That Khalid executes a novel this intricate, elegant, and compassionate with such masterly prose all but guarantees that this will be one of the finest works of literature this year.
VERDICT Blisteringly intelligent, bursting with profound feeling, and host to some of the most complex, necessary characters in recent memory.
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