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Review of the Novel "Justice My Brother" by Roberta Kalechofsky

by Richard Seltzer,

Copyright 1976 by Roberta Kalechofsky

The full text of Justice My Brother is available online.

You can reach Roberta at, or at Micah Publications, 255 Humphrey St., Marblehead, MA 01945,

This review first appeared in Aspect #64, March 1976. (A few minor edits were made in 2002, including the reference to Cormac McCarthy.)

"He was riding to kill his brother," we learn in the second paragraph of this amazing novel. Ricardo, seeking to avenge a multitude of injustices and to assert himself as a human being, fires at his callous and relatively wealthy brother, Julio, form close range with a rifle. The bullet misses, but marks Julio with the fear of death and Ricardo with the guilt of Cain.

Their paths cross and recross through the years as Julio descends the ladder of humanity form landowner to beggar to cripple to a form of living death; and Ricardo, guided by an ironic, Sophisticated, somewhat godless priest, struggles toward a thankless sainthood in service to the sick and dying. The characters emerge vivid, desperate, impulsive, passionate, against the background of a pitiless, intricately patterned universe, where holiness seems "no more than constancy of design."

The priest, Father Ferenza, adds an extra dimension to this well-told tale of simple people living out a complex fate. He makes explicit the issues of good and evil and destiny posed by the life of Ricardo, and reflects on the human condition with sharp cold thrusts, worthy of a character from Cormac McCarthy or Dostoyevsky.

"What is the use of life?" [asks Ricardo] "if there is no better life after this one?"

"If you do not know the use of this life, what is the use of another one?" [replies Ferenza]

"Si, but," Ricardo said, feeling driven back on vague memorizations of answers, "is it not true that in the next world all things will be made clear?"

Father Ferenza regarded him for a moment with irritable interest. Then he said in a firm voice as if he were giving a direction in the road, "All things have already been made clear, Senor."

There was a note of authoritative bombast in his voice, half playful, half serious, and Ricardo could not decide whether he was a man of mystery or of light.

The temptation is great to reread and to quote page after page: Originally published by the Montreal Writers' Cooperative and available directly from the author (who has started her own publishing company -- Micah Publications), this gem comes in a format unlikely to catch the wandering eye in a bookstore; but it deserves an honored place on everyone's bookshelf, in everyone's memory.  privacy statement