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  My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Review by: Joshua D.
South Carolina, Grade 10

Overall I believe this is an excellent book. It is an interesting coming of age story for Tim and the relationships within the town all feel real and compelling. In addition to this, it provides a new viewpoint that many novels fail to touch on. That is the home front and how the people are affected and the conflicts they go through. It certainly makes one consider the true cost of war. Ultimately, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an excellent revolutionary war novel.

The Revolution seems to be a popular setting for America authors. James Lincoln and Christopher Collier follow this trend with their book My Brother Sam is Dead. This novel follows the story of young Tim Meeker, a boy living in the town of Redding during the Revolutionary War. His brother Sam has left to serve the revolutionary forces, much to the chagrin of his father, a steadfast loyalist. However, things begin to change when Sam returns to Redding and he sets into motion events that will ultimately prove to change the lives of Tim and the town of Redding forever.
Authors always have a message they are trying to get across. To Colliers certainly do with My Brother Sam is Dead. It explores the realities of war that one does not find on the front line as wells as the effects it has people and communities. As the book progresses it becomes obvious that the country itself is divided and people no longer trust each other. Redding’s people have announced that it is a Tory town, a town rather hostile to revolutionaries. Food is short, Tim tells us that “by 1776 food was getting to be a real problem for us”, and people are suffering because of it (Collier 63). It shows that the consequences of war can be found far war from the battlefield and can tear countries and communities in two. Furthermore, war can have more personal consequences. Sam has been divided by the war raging all around him, he wishes to support his brother in the fight for freedom but he understands that he must respect his father’s wishes. It seems to him that no action he can take will be correct; nothing he can do will be right. War has torn his family apart and he knows it.
It seems society has become almost enamored with the image of war, looking out and seeing soldiers fighting an enemy on the battlefield. However, what some people fail, or choose not, to see is the true battlefield of war. This is where we find young Tim, on the home front, the place where wars are truly won and lost. Sam’s home Redding is the perfect example of how the people back home can decide who wins and who loses. People in Redding are doing what they can to support their own side. You can see the internal conflicts when Tim’s father is discussing Sam’s leaving, Tim’s father tells him that “I suppose Sam’s been preaching rebellion to you..just college-boy wind…who isn’t free?...what’s the use of principles if we have to be dead to keep them? We’re Englishmen”, he’s trying to get Sam to abandon these ideas of revolution, simply a way to garner more supporters(Collier 27-28). It is these types of efforts that end up deciding wars.
Authors love crafting believable characters and love even more to communicate to readers through them. The characters of My Brother Sam is Dead certainly conform to this. Tim is a young boy trying to find his place in a divided world. He gives the reader a view of the war through the unbiased eyes of a child. Sam is a rebellious youth who has left home to fight with the revolutionaries. He proves the true cost of horrors of war when he is publicly executed simply to make an example and sway more supporters. Finally, the many other characters present various views on the war showing how truly divided a nation can be during a war.

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