71 of 79 people found the following review helpful
This book really should have been marked as being a bit scandalous. There is intercourse with minors, incest, multiple attempted suicides, the list goes on. A lesser author would dredge up the most obvious emotions and the associated trite characterizations of the seemingly typical damaged characters and clobber us with a storyline that reeks with the familiar "I can tell which heart string he's going to pull on next".
If you've not yet read Leave Myself Behind (I have lent out and purchased at least 4 copies thus far) then you might not realize that Bart Yates is not a lesser author, and that buying and experiencing this book is really something you'll want to thank him for making possible.
He takes emotionally wrenching subject matter and mixes it with characters that should be easily predictable and transparent and turns them into these simple yet epic portrayals of the intricacy of the human condition, and it's amazing to read. He certainly does put most, if not all, of his characters through hell and back before allowing them a bit of redemption, but as with most of the rewarding things in life, the journey is a hell of a lot more important than the destination.
I fully suggest setting aside however much time you'll need to get through it in one sitting - and if you haven't yet read Leave Myself Behind, have it at the ready for when you finish.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Bart Yates burns up the pages with a writing style that very rapidly becomes addictive. He is able to say more in a short paragraph that most writers can say in a chapter. There is a sense of presence in his style that seduces the reader into the feeling of being in the same space as his characters, making the story flow smoothly and far too quickly!
And what characters he as created in THE BROTHERS BISHOP! Nathan, the older, still lives an near hermetic existence in his hometown of Walcott, Connecticut, in the same house where he spent his childhood with his younger brother Tommy, their mother who died in a freak accident of choking when the boys were small, their father who after the death of the mother became a cruel and abusive parent. The father is now dead and Nathan maintains the house intact, teaching school in the local high school, trying to find happiness as a gay man without a partner.
Into this milieu enters Tommy (now living in New York) together with his current squeeze Philip (Tommy has a history of torrid but brief gay relationships), and a young married couple Kyle and Camille (Kyle is a closeted gay man). They intend to spend two summer weeks at the beach but the 'vacation' is far from relaxing. Tommy soon takes notice of Simon, Kyle's 15-yer-old student (whose won father is abusive and just happens to be the new District Attorney) and in time progresses toward a disastrous liaison. Nathan struggles with yet another intrusion into his privacy with the entrance of an archeological dig in his cornfield, and that crimp in his privacy is heightened by the madness of Tommy with Philip moving toward dissolution of a shallow relationship mirrored by Kyle and Camille when Kyle gets far too involved with his physical needs with men. Despite Nathan's warnings to Tommy that he is headed toward trouble with his behavior with Simon, the inevitable happens and tragedy ensues for both of the brothers.
One of the stunning aspects of this fine novel is Yates' concept of brotherhood that binds Nathan and Tommy, a brotherhood that has no equal in contemporary literature. The brothers truly love each other and struggle through their childhood with an abusive father, finding solace with each other, even to the point that they carry on a mutually successful sex life with each other. In some writers' hands this topic of incestuous relationship would be ruinous: in Yates hands he gives us one of the most beautifully rich bondings that is equally sensuous and spiritual. The boys are both so desperate to be loved that they find satisfaction in each other ... and a few memories of their mother's love. Nathan: 'I was only four years old, and I had never known what love really was until the day I saw my mother singing to my brother. Before then it was only a word, just an abstract concept I confused with simple affection. But that was the day it became a reality, something palpable and awful and heart stopping...If it doesn't drop you to your knees and make you shake like a set dog, it's not love.'
With THE BROTHERS BISHOP Yates confirms the promises made in LEAVE MYSELF BEHIND as one of the more poignant and gifted writers, especially in gay fiction. It is one of those books you hope never ends and when it ends with the heart-tugging tragedy Yates has us by the throat. A finely written, intelligent, engrossing novel that begs to be re-read. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, April 06
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2005
THE BROTHERS BISHOP by Bart Yates is a fascinating tale of close and loving human relationships. Yates' first work, LEAVE MYSELF BEHIND, was a finalist for the Insight Out Violet Quill Award, and the winner of the 2004 Alex Award. His second novel doesn't disappoint. Yates draws on his extensive understanding of human behavior to paint a fascinating, and many times disturbing tale of two brothers who love each other--in spite of or because of--their bitter, widowed father, Vernon Michael Bishop.
Set in the small touristy coastal town of Walcott, Connecticut, the Bishop boys, Nathan and Tommy, depended on each other growing up. After their mother died an early and sudden death, their embittered father took his hurt and loss out on his sons until after one particularly bad incident, he put both boys in the hospital. Afterwards, Vernon vowed never to hurt the boys physically again. From then on, his abuse became verbal and emotional. The boys only had each other for support and comfort. The extent of that support, and the secret Nathan and Tommy share, will surprise the reader.
The story's narrator Nathan is now a 31 year old high school English teacher. After their father's death, Nathan chose to live in the Bishop family's historic cottage within walking distance of the beach. The story takes place three years after Vernon's funeral. Tommy, a gregarious 29 year old New Yorker, visits his somewhat reclusive big brother for the first time since their father's death. Never one to be alone, Tommy brings along an entourage of his three closest friends, newlyweds Camille and Kyle, and his current boyfriend, Phillip.
Loner Nathan never considers the possibility of having a boyfriend--he's the complete opposite of flirty Tommy, who has a boyfriend turnover every few weeks. When Nathan's 15 year old summer school student, Simon, meets the group at the beach, and then starts hanging around with them at the cottage, possible trouble looms ahead. Jail-bait Simon has a crush on randy Tommy.
Bart Yates has woven an unpredictable story with sidelights I haven't touched on in this review. THE BROTHERS BISHOP is
titillating and sad, exciting and hopeful. Yates has a wonderful way with words, using clever and original expressions to relay his observations of the human condition. When I finished reading THE BROTHERS BISHOP, I breathed an audible, "Wow." I recommend
this book to anyone looking for a read that's a cut above the
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2005
Exhumation, elimination, death and secrets--these are the touchstones with which Bart Yates works, and in this great novel, he doesn't disappoint. While that might sound dark, you'll be surprised at the humor, love and life in this book. Yates has moved a step beyond his first novel, Leave Myself Behind, writing a tale of mature angst that is somewhat more consistent and even deeper than his first novel.
This story is of two brothers: Nathan, a stalwart teacher in a small Connecticut town, and Tommy, an outgoing, daring and sensual pirate who lives for the moment. Both are gay, have survived years of physical abuse from their widowed and angry (and recently deceased) father, and lead somewhat confused lives.
The story does not disappoint, turning over one surprise after another when Tommy, his boyfriend, and their friends Kyle and Camille come to visit Nathan. This menagerie unravels as their secrets are spilled, and all their lives move fast-forward when events fuel the angst that all of them possess.
A related subplot is of a local historian who pushes her way into doing a dig in Nathan's backyard, sure that a cultural treasure is in store. Exhumation is a major theme of Yates' work, as witnessed by his first novel, but I'm not sure why it was in this novel. We can get the exhumation from the story--we didn't really need the subplot. It's almost a red herring, as I expected extra, exciting secrets from the dig or a possible deeper tie between the historian and late father of Nathan and Tommy.
The inclusion of Simon, a 15-year-old student of Nathan's who becomes enchanted with Tommy, is expertly done, and you will probably be riveted by this startling and little-trod pathway in the novel. If you yearn for a "big ending," you won't be disappointed. It got so "big" I almost wondered if Yates could carry it, but he did.
My only (and they're minor) dissatisfactions with the story were that I'm a little tired of the angry/abusive father theme, the absent/dead mom theme, and Yates' interruptive narrative style. Perhaps Yates does not have confidence enough in his storyline to pull back on the ultra-strong first-person, in-your-face narrative; he can now, he has earned it. But these are small points in an otherwise very, very good novel, and my criticism is only because Yates is already a brilliant writer and therefore raises my expectations to a near-unachievable level.
The incest and teen-love plots are on the edge--sharp, and yet carefully handled. I was very surprised at some of the plot turns that were included, and you will be, too. A good novel always takes a few jerks in the unexpected direction, and this book is certainly no exception.
Bottom line, this is the story of brotherly and manly love that knows no bounds, a bright and vibrant theme woven into an engrossing, juicyfruit story. Don't miss it--there aren't many good gay novels like this around.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2005
I found this to be an excellent book to read (and will watch closely for new writings by this author). The 'one liners' throughout are clever and amusing and the insights of the principle character are thought provoking and memorable. I think that many brothers' who read of the experiences of these two men will be able to draw comparisons and explore their own relationship(s), past and present, with greater clarity.
My own slight discomfort with the ending is more than compensated for with the main body of the book. Hats' Off to Bart Yates!!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2006
Bart Yates is a powerful new writer - and a real gem in the gay fiction pool. The characters are rich and the story is compelling. When I read this book I had to buy LEAVE MYSELF BEHIND - both books are worth reading!
So this book is pointed, wry, observant and wise. Buy both of them!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2006
I'm not going to go over the plot of the novel since others have already done that. Having said that, let me also say that Mr. Yates' storytelling style is the best I have encountered in a long time. There were several points in the novel where I stopped and said, "Wait a minute. I gotta read that again. I can't believe he [Yates] did that," simply because he kept dropping little bombshells. Meanwhile, from the very beginning, Mr. Yates lights a fuse that burns through the entire novel as he reveals the true nature of Nathan's and Tommy's relationship. I'm not referring to the most obvious aspect of their relationship (which you can read about yourself), but to Tommy's longstanding ability to exert a positive influence on Nathan's behavior by both word and deed, in spite of appearing to be just a pretty-boy who doesn't give much thought to the possible consequences of his actions. At the same time, Nathan seems to have little or no ability to influence Tommy's behavior, no matter how hard he tries or how morally superior he believes himself to be.
I don't want to tell you anything else; you need to experience this novel in full. Just buy the book, OK? Don't forget to get overnight shipping.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2005
The Brothers Bishop is truly one of the most gripping and ultimately wrenching reading experiences I've had in quite some time. I am in awe of Bart Yates' ability to create two of deepest and most memorable characters in recent memory: gay brothers Nathan and Tommy Bishop. Their love story, in the profoundest sense, is the heart and soul of this unforgettable novel. Judgemental people who might condemn these two brothers for their imperfections should stay away from this book. But for those who strive to understand the human heart in all its complexities, this novel is a must read. Find a private place to read its final pages. I am still overwhelmed by its devastating conclusion.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2006
this book is powerfully written--just gripping. it does get at a lot of strong emotions and has a well-characterized narrator. it is also to be commended for creating a gay character who struggles powerfully with anger and violence, as an aggressor not victim. however, there is a melodramatic tone to much of it. the characters other than the narrator are less nuanced than they might be. and the book's greatest flaw: a strange assortment of subplots that don't line up particularly well with the themes of the stronger main plot.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2006
In Bart Yate's evocotive and moving story about two gay brothers, you may at first think it is going to be the same old story. One golden child son who has confidence and everything going for him, versus the moody and introverted brother who just needs to loosen up. It does not take long into the book before you get the feeling that something is wrong, and before long you become aware that something terrible is going to happen and there is nothing that anyone can do to prevent it. The book was totally unexpected and while I was very disturbed by the issues that it brought up and a tough climax, I cannot reccommend it enough.