The Brothers’ Keepers, a modern literary novel, is a collaborative work written by John H. Paddison and Charles D. Orvik. Based on the book’s tone, theme, and literary intention, which are similar in style to Sherwood Anderson’s classic Winesburg, Ohio, this work will prove to be a significant contribution to contemporary literature.
As a novel dealing with the saga of one family, the work closely analyzes an ongoing cultural myth of small Midwest American towns and families—that is, the idea and ideal of family values that have come to symbolize that geographic region. Much like Richard Russo recently did in his novel Empire Falls, the story emerges from within a historical framework. The story takes place in the Northeastern part of North Dakota, in the fictional town of Farmington, during and after the Great Depression. The storyline develops around the neglect and then abandonment of five young boys—the Lambson brothers—by their alcoholic mother and their drifter father, and indeed by society in general. Having been exhaustively researched, the novel details in a sensitive yet realistic way the brothers’ development under very adverse physical and social conditions and the five boys’ eventual outcome. Events of the story are structured so as to extract meaning from the youngsters’ trials; the narrative voice is sensitive yet forceful in adding understanding of their tribulations, thus bringing light to two social ills that plague America today—child neglect and child abuse.
Set primarily in the post-depression Midwest, the novel follows five young brothers–Dewey, Duane,Lloyd, Leeland, and Darrell Lambson—from childhood to adulthood. Their parents essentially abandon them in the late 1930s. The narrative focus of the novel is the detailed description of the Lambson boys’ day-to-day struggle to survive physically, emotionally, and socially. After their father leaves them, the boys live on a dilapidated farm on the outskirts of the agricultural community of Farmington, North Dakota with their alcoholic mother. In her own pursuit of escape, she often leaves the children to their own means for extended periods of time. The brothers’ hardships form a strong, familial bond between them—the only definition of family that they can construct from their aberrant circumstances. The broader narrative, though, becomes an attempt to understand how a society that traditionally has always placed so much emphasis on family and family values, at least seemingly, can condone such treatment of the five youngsters. This probing of social responsibility is relevant to today’s society, with children increasingly becoming the victims of abuse and neglect.
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John H. Paddison is Emeritus Professor of English at Central Arizona College, where he is still employed on a part-time basis as the Director of International Studies. Prior to his service at Central Arizona College, he had teaching assignments at Northern Arizona University, Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona, and McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. Paddison received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California at San Bernardino, his Master of Arts Degree from Northern Arizona University, and his Doctoral Degree from the University of Arizona, in the field of Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English. Currently he continues to work on extended teacher/student exchange programs with various foreign schools, the most prominent of which is Northeastern University, in Shenyang, China.
Paddison’s writing career started with numerous non-fiction publications in the education field and has since branched out to the fiction genre. Upcoming publications include a novella entitled The Neighborhood, a number of short stories, and a photo narrative about his experiences in China, entitled An American Academic in Li Bai’s Court: China Photos and Reflections,
Charles D. Orvik is a retired attorney at law, after having practiced law in Rugby, North Dakota for forty years. Orvik received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Dakota, and LLB from the University of North Dakota, and a JD in Law from the University of North Dakota. In his law practice he served as elected State Attorney for over twenty years, while still maintaining a general practice of law, along with accounting and tax law.
Orvik was admitted to and qualified as an Attorney and Counselor of the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Federal Court, and the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota. In addition, he served on the Board of Directors of the following organizations: the State Bar Association of North Dakota, the North Central District Bar Association (president), the North Dakota State Attorneys Association (president). As a crusader against child abuse and neglect, he has worked closely with the Minot Office of the North Dakota Mental Health Board, the Minot Office of the Dakota Human Services Center Board, the North Dakota Lutheran Social Services Board, and various North Dakota Human Service Centers.