Jonas is searching for his brother, Paul, who was hit by a train and died seventeen months before Jonas was born. Paul’s photo on top of the television has always prompted Jonas’s interest. He kept asking his parents questions about Paul such such as why he was on the railroad tracks and why he didn’t hear the train coming. After he finds Paul’s suede jacket in the attic with a note in the pocket addressed to “Princi,” Jonas’s quest begins in earnest.
Finding Paul’s treasure box behind the baseboard of their room, Jonas uses a number of sources–his parents, his mother’s gay friend Daniel, Paul’s diaries, photographs, and old newspapers–to fill in the words of a crossword puzzle. An important piece of the puzzle is that Paul was gay and in love with a Czech boy named Petr. As Jonas finds out more about Paul, he discovers more about himself, as well as about the other main characters and their ways of dealing with guilt and grief.
Jonas’s easy acceptance that his brother was gay, his comfort at being around Daniel, and his reaction to other events suggests that he may be gay himself. The author leaves us to guess.
As narrator, Jonas uses first person, dreams, talking to Paul, and diary entries. In his journey to solve the puzzle, he also composes a third-person narrative of how their last day together. The final clue eludes him until almost the end.
The title has a double meaning. The book is about both Jonas, Paul’s biological brother, and about Petr, Paul’s soul brother.
I recommend this excellent short novel to all readers.
Reviewer: Larry Roman