His brother's keeper : a story from the edge of medicine /
Jonathan Weiner.
1st ed.
New York : Ecco, c2004.
356 p. ; 24cm.
More Details
New York : Ecco, c2004.
general note
"Portions of this book, in different form, first appeared in The New Yorker."--t.p. verso.
catalogue key
A Look Inside
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, USA, 2004 : Nominated
First Chapter
His Brother's Keeper
A Story from the Edge of Medicine

Chapter One


When they were boys, Jamie and Stephen Heywood lovedto arm wrestle. They made it a ritual: first the right arm,then the left, then, if there was time, a wrestling match onthe rug. Their rules of engagement were so complicated and so long unspoken that no one else ever learned the game. Even Jamie's best friend Duncan Moss did not know how to play. Duncan would take one step across the line on the rug. Then he would see the look on Jamie's face.

What? What did I do?

He did not know the rules.

The Heywoods lived in an old house on Mill Street in Newtonville,Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. All three of the Heywoodboys, Jamie, then Stephen, and then the youngest, Ben, were athleticdreamers, inventors of many rituals and adventures. The house onMill Street is a block from a patch of woods and a pond. The brothersplayed football there in a corner field that belonged to a neighbor theycalled Aunt Betsy. Late at night when it rained hard, Jamie andStephen snuck out with boogie boards. They hopped a fence to thecreek, which got roaring in a good storm. Through the dark and therain they rode the rapids into Bolough's Pond.

Their parents, Peggy and John Heywood, are well known in Newtonville. They love traditions, too. Each of them has served termsas Senior Warden of Grace Church, in Newton Corners. When theirboys were young, they went back every summer to the dairy farm inSouth Dakota where Peggy had grown up. She had won a full scholarshipto Radcliffe, in Cambridge, which is where she met John. Peggyworked as a therapist; she kept her practice small and devoted herselfto the family.

Every seven years, they spent a year in England, where John wasborn and raised. John Heywood is a professor of mechanical engineeringat the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an internationalauthority on internal combustion engines. He is the son of a British coalengineer who turned to solar power early on, back when only thecranks were interested in what he had to say -- back when a maverick who worried about coal smoke, soot, and acid, and praised the powerof the sun, was like a bolt from the future. John Heywood consultsabout energy efficiency for Ford in Detroit, Ferrari in Italy, Toyota inJapan. When he is at home, he runs MIT's Sloan Automotive Laboratory,to which he commutes from Mill Street on a bicycle.

Each summer in July or August, Peggy's side of the family gatheredfrom across the country for a reunion at the beach town of Duck,near Kitty Hawk, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A few of thechildren on the beach were always honorary Heywoods, as Aunt Betsywas an honorary aunt. John and Peggy, Jamie, Stephen, and Ben eachbrought friends. The boys swam, sailed, surfed, and raced on the coldshining track the waves made for them. Every summer on one of theirlast days at Duck they played a game of basketball with their cousinsand with strangers they roped in from up and down the beach,wickedly violent games that routinely sent a few Heywoods to thehospital.

As Jamie and Stephen got older, they kept arm wrestling, ritually.In their late teens and early twenties, when the two and a half yearsbetween them no longer mattered, they were perfectly matched. ButJamie became a mechanical engineer, like their father and his father inEngland. Jamie was intelligent and driven, and spent his days and nights working at a desk. Stephen became a carpenter, a hands-onman like their mother's father and brother in South Dakota. Stephenwas intelligent, too, but he mistrusted desks and ambitions. He spenta few years swinging a hammer on a framing crew, and his right armbecame unbeatable.

Late in July of 1997, when Jamie was thirty and Stephen was twenty-eight,they arm wrestled in the beach house their parents had rented thatsummer at Duck. Jamie was five feet, eleven and three-quarter inchestall, and he weighed one hundred and sixty-five pounds; Stephen wassix-foot-three, two-twenty. Jamie was keeping himself in shape, butStephen was building his first house that year, and his right bicep and tricepwere very well-defined. In arm wrestling, there is always a momentwhen the winner knows he has won and the loser knows he has lost. Thebrothers were both surprised when they realized that for the first time infive years, Jamie would force Stephen's right arm down to the table.

Jamie whooped. I beat my carpenter brother. I'm the man! I'mthe man!

Stephen won the next bout, which they fought, as always, lefthanded.That shut up Jamie.

Neither of them suspected that anything was wrong.

That year a team of scientists and veterinarians in Scotlandannounced the birth of a strange lamb, the identical twin of itsmother. The news hung above the year like a comet. All around theworld, the arrival of the lamb was received as a portent, like an earthquake,a fire, an eruption, a millennial battle won or lost. Somethingwas out of whack in the order of the world and would have to be putright, if it could ever be put right -- or else turned to advantage,transformed into acts of healing as novel as the conception of thatcloned lamb.

That was also the year the world's front pages carried the story ofthe death of Jeanne Louise Calment, from Arles, France. She helped inspire people to hope that in the new millennium, human beings might live as long as Methuselah. Jeanne Louise Calment was 122years old. She remembered Vincent van Gogh.

Those who loved science and those who mistrusted it felt an almostsupernatural touch of hope or dread that year, as if all our human ritualswere about to change forever ...

His Brother's Keeper
A Story from the Edge of Medicine
. Copyright © by Jonathan Weiner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from His Brother's Keeper: A Story from the Edge of Medicine by Jonathan Weiner
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-03-01:
At the heart of this report from the front lines of gene therapy and other regenerative medicine techniques lies a simple, heartbreaking question: "What would you do to save your brother''s life?" When Stephen Heywood, a 29-year-old carpenter, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), his older brother, Jaime, launched his own research project to search for a cure. It was the late 1990s, shortly after scientists had cloned a living creature for the first time. So when Jamie told a friend about research demonstrating that the DNA of every ALS victim was missing a protein, his response ("Why don't you just put the damn protein back?") seemed wildly optimistic but not entirely impossible-if they could figure out how to do it in time. Weiner (The Beak of the Finch) keeps the actual science to a minimum. The story's power derives from attention to small, human details, like Stephen's first symptoms of losing strength in his fingers. The emotional register is also strong; Weiner spends so much time with the Heywoods that they begin to refer to him as one of the family, and his closeness allows him to effectively contrast their handling of Stephen's condition to his own family's reaction to his mother's bout with a similar nerve-death disease. Weiner can't give readers a happy ending for Stephen, but he can-and does-offer a powerful account of equal parts ambition and hope. (Mar.) Forecast: Weiner's The Beak of the Finch won the Pulitzer and his Time, Love, Memory won the NBCC Award. Also, Weiner has a five-city tour plus additional lecture tie-ins, as well as other national media planned. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-04-15:
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Beak of the Finch tells the remarkable story of two close brothers from Massachusetts, brought even closer in 1998 by the younger brother's diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), a degenerative neurological condition. Jamie Heywood, the elder brother, decided to change his career from mechanical engineering to medical research to try to save his brother Stephen's life. Weiner's descriptions of the ups and downs of stem-cell research, gene therapy, and the ethics of end-of-life experimental treatments grippingly convey the effect of scientific inquiry on regular people. Weiner also meditates on the impact of experimental medicine on the human race as a whole, and his interest in Darwin leads to the idea that genetically modifying human beings to prevent or cure disease may prove to be an evolutionary event that transforms humanity. Touching and insightful about the concepts of family, illness, and the frontiers of medicine, this is strongly recommended for science and medical collections in public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/04.]-Elizabeth Williams, Fresno City Coll. Lib., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, February 2004
Booklist, March 2004
Los Angeles Times, March 2004
Publishers Weekly, March 2004
Library Journal, April 2004
New York Times Book Review, April 2004
Globe & Mail, May 2004
Washington Post, May 2004
New York Times Book Review, August 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
Author's Notep. xi
The Key in the Doorp. 1
The Planp. 73
The Constructp. 147
The Signp. 211
The Sudden Fallp. 291
Acknowledgmentsp. 355
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem