A well-researched historical coming-of-age novel, A Stranger to My Brothers is a standout book for teens that will appeal just as much to adults.
The plot has enough drama to keep readers on the edge of their seats, flipping pages late into the night.
But there is far more to this novel.
The details of every day life 11th-century England, a time when paganism still smoldered and Christianity was just taking over, offer a window into a world we rarely get to see.
Martin is an orphaned teen and we get to travel with him through Europe, join the crusades, live through pogroms, walk through Hungary and explore Constantinople in all its Byzantine glory.
Martin’s dream to join the Byzantine emperor’s Varangians guard will introduce readers to groups and events that many history books have left out.
Through myriad little touches – the feel of different grades of woven fabrics, the balance of a well-made sword – Mrs. Meyer brings to life the world our ancestors inhabited.
There is more graphic violence in this book than most frum readers may be used to. Pogroms are violent and Mrs. Meyer doesn’t pretend they are not.
Frightening challenges abound, but the pleasures and human relationships that are not so different from ours today are all there, too.
The latter is where this novel really shines. Its realistic portrayal of an angry teenager is honest and fresh. Martin is an honestly portrayed abused, angry young boy.
He doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, he’s got a giant boulder. He’s selfish and callous one moment – and then heroically self-sacrificing the next. He’s rude, obnoxious and at times engages in deeply inappropriate behavior.
In other words, he’s a believable peasant teenager who grew up barely knowing he was Jewish. Despite that, Mrs. Meyer manages to make us love him and keep rooting for him, which is in itself really something!
What happens when he meets another Jew is not at all what one expects. The characters around him don’t fit stereotypes – the helping hands most often come from the least likely people. This is no smooth slide into a frum life with an easy happy ever after. Martin’s a tough kid and there are wrenching decisions, disastrous falls and many heartbreaks before he grows into a man and chooses his path.
There are also lots of unexpected flashes of humor and some complex other characters along the way.
Original, exciting, honest and real. Highly recommended for teens over 13 and adults.
A Stranger to My Brothers was previously published as Fall of the Sun God.
Self-published. (See our FAQ on self-published books.)
We received a review copy of this book.
Mrs. Henye Meyer is also the author of:
(Israel Bookshop Publications)
the humorous thriller, Adrenalin Rush (Menucha Publishers).
Starlight (Menucha Publishers)