J.A. Tyler – Variations of a Brother War

This week’s review at Necessary Fiction is by me, of a lovely novella written by J.A. Tyler. Variations of a Brother War is actually a novella-in-verse, each page containing a triptych of 100-word stanzas bound together by a common theme. The book has about fifty* different themed triptychs, and together they tell of two brothers, Miller and Gideon, and their love for the same woman, Eliza. The book is set during the American Civil War and so it is also about fighting between “brothers” in that symbolic sense.

Here’s a small excerpt from my review:

As the title suggests, there are many stories here in Variations of a Brother War, and of course there is only one story told in myriad ways. Gideon and Miller will die several deaths, Eliza will love both men and reject both men. She will love many times. She will be happy. She will be alone. Mothers die and fathers leave, both become ghosts who then return again and again to Tyler’s valley of cabins and rage and love-gone-wrong. Despite the strictness of the structure, the book offers a freedom of story and meaning, a chance to be read again and again in the joy of new discovery.

Variations of a Brother War is the first book to be published by a small press out of Portland, OR called Small Doggies Press and based on this first selection, I’m really excited to see what they’ll come out with next. This was a fun, thoughtful and beautiful book to read; it took me only a few hours and so I had the chance to read it again twice over the next couple of days.

Read the full review here.

*I’d have to check for the exact number and maybe there are only 34 or 36 different triptychs, which would be a neat connection to the Civil War since this is how many states there were at the beginning and then at the end of the Civil War – but my memory of the book tells me there are more…


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Reader, writer, translator, nature-lover, happy expat and concerned world citizen.

4 thoughts on “J.A. Tyler – Variations of a Brother War”

    1. I’m pretty sure it’s available at all the usual online outlets, otherwise I’m sure you can get it directly from Small Doggies Press. I’d be curious to hear what you think of it, Anne, especially because I remember you mentioned that you were maybe working on a war-themed novel.

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