Author: Martha Kennedy
Publisher: Self published
Type of book: Switzerland Zurich, religion, brothers, 1524-1532, Catholicism, Protestantism, faith, doubts, rituals, baptism as infant vs not, brotherhood, family, revolution, rebellion, Zwingli, church, betrayal
Year it was published: 2016
The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later without being baptized. Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531. It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation, seven years when a person's life could depend on his or her religious beliefs.
Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America looking for safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were adamant about separating church and state.
It's a topic that many of us today don't think about, living, as we do, in a world that is the result of many of the changes that began in the Reformation. It's difficult to imagine people being as interested in religion as many of these people were, but, unfortunately, we still live in a world in which people are willing to kill those who believe differently or die the death of martyrs for their own beliefs. Still, if religion does not interest you, this is not your book.
The Brothers Path is available from online booksellers, Mastof Books in Morgantown PA, and Narrow Gauge Newsstand in Alamosa, CO
I feel as if the characters weren't highly drawn or complex, but instead there is the emotion of them being simple. Yet the characters suit the story and add more to enjoyment rather than detract from it. Andreas is the youngest brother who is passionate, fiery, and often lacks practical/common sense when it comes to life. He is one of the first family members to become a Protestant. Hannes is a middle brother who was given to church at a very young age and who also takes his job extremely serious. But then events begin to conspire with Hannes that cause him to start thinking deeply. Heinrich is the eldest brother who works the mill and has his own family. He is extremely close to his father. Thomann is more of a follower who seems to keep his real self hidden from his brothers as well as himself until a tragedy strikes the family. Peter is Hannes' antithesis and seems to be immoral and is a mercenary type who cares more for money than anything else while Conrad is the quiet type who also seems to be the voice of reason and acts as a father figure to other brothers. There are other characters such as the women who stand by the men's sides, but I feel as if the author is more focused on the brothers and how things affect them.
Revolutions happen quietly in beginning but pick up steam at the end
The story is in third person narrative from a lot of characters' points of view, although at the center are the five brothers; Andreas, Hannes, Heinrich, Thomann, Peter and Conrad. The story also takes place from 1524 up until 1532. The first part of the book, I feel, is slow and really reminded me of a calm day at an ocean, maybe because the author focuses a lot on the readers becoming familiar with the characters rather than on action. The second part is more action oriented while the last part picks up the action completely as a lot of changes and violence come for the family. I don't know a lot about Protestant faith nor about Catholic faith, but I do feel as if the author is making a strong case for Protestantism and why it succeeded in Switzerland as well as some differences between their practice and others' practice.
About the Author
While reading the book I felt as if I was floating on the ocean and just enjoying myself. Perhaps its the scenery that gave me that idea or the pace of the book in the first section when the reader is getting to know the brothers as well as what is going on and why. I also think that this is probably first time I will rate a story that's filled with religious conversation discussing the faiths with a high rating. For me it didn't feel like a conversion story, but instead the author explored the Protestant faith slowly and methodically through different brothers and what it means to them and how they are dealing with changes. Its hard to imagine that at one point Protestant faith used to be persecuted, but that's how it was in beginning. The story is also more of a quiet revolution rather than something forceful and drastic, although violence and battle do occur off-scene. Because of my background, I'm not familiar with importance of baptism in Catholic faith, nor am I familiar with the traditions that the brothers talked about. I also feel as if the author is showing far stronger preference for Protestant religion rather than Catholic and the story is more exploratory of Protestanism rather than Catholicism which makes it a bit skewed in my view.
This is for HFVBT
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)