The O'Briens by Peter Behrens

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...all his characters negotiate the “sharp, hard edge of joy” of being acutely, painfully alive. That said, the episodic story-telling, especially once the family becomes ensconced in upper-class Montreal, denies the novel the dramatic intensity of its predecessor.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams.
 
The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien—grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling riches and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century.
 
When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice, California, the story of their courtship—told in Behrens’s gorgeous, honed style—becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. Husband and wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, children and grandchildren, the O’Briens engage unselfconsciously with their century, and we experience their times not as historical tableaux but as lives passionately lived. At the heart of this clan—at the heart of the novel—is mystery and madness grounded in the history of Irish sorrow. The O’Briens is the story of a man, a marriage, and a family, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.

 

About Peter Behrens

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Peter Behrens is the author of The Law of Dreams (which received Canada's Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction and was published around the world to wide acclaim) and Night Driving, a collection of short stories. His stories and essays have appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic and Tin House. Honors he has received include a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University's Creative Writing Program.
 
Published March 6, 2012 by Anchor. 530 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The O'Briens
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by JOHN VERNON on Mar 23 2012

The last hundred pages are a powerful evocation of that war’s effect, all the more so because by now Joe’s children have been brought to the forefront.

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The Maine Edge

Excellent
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Mar 08 2012

It’s an intimate epic; all the joy and passion, all the anger and fear, all the love and loss involved in simply living and being – that’s what Peter Behrens has captured with “The O’Briens.”

Read Full Review of The O'Briens

National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Charles Foran on Jul 08 2011

...all his characters negotiate the “sharp, hard edge of joy” of being acutely, painfully alive. That said, the episodic story-telling, especially once the family becomes ensconced in upper-class Montreal, denies the novel the dramatic intensity of its predecessor.

Read Full Review of The O'Briens | See more reviews from National Post arts

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71%

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