Ronald H. Balson’s Once We Were Brothers is mainly the story of 83-year-old Ben Solomon who went to a fundraiser and promptly held a gun to the head of Elliot Rosenzweig, a rich and respected Chicago leader. Ben shouted that Elliot was a Nazi and a murderer named Otto Piatek, but why he would do so is the main mystery of the novel. Shortly after being released from jail for his actions, Ben immediately seeks a lawyer for assistance in suing Elliot Rosenzweig for being a Nazi. At first Ben’s case is rather unclear as he refuses to cut to the chase in favor of telling his story from his memories dating back to 1933. As Ben’s story picks up pace, the pieces for the case and the terrible crimes of Otto Piatek become crystal clear.
Once We Were Brothers was astounding for a plethora of reasons such as the terrific characterization, the ever-present suspense and mystery, and the novel’s ability to truly draw the reader in to witness everything from the sidelines. Ronald Balson did a phenomenal job at changing characterizations right when I thought I could judge the characters. Rather than weakening them, this occurrence made the characters so lifelike that I could imagine nearly every aspect to them. The suspense and mystery to the novel nearly caused me to tear the pages in my haste to discover how it would end. Since this story is told in present day and the 1930s, the predictable ending is not so predictable. Throughout Once We Were Brothers, I frequently changed my theories on how it all would end and even then I was only half correct. Lastly, I was easily able to picture the events as they happened in the novel thanks to the fantastic imagery. I loved this because I rarely get so attached to characters in a book that I cry when they die. Surprisingly enough, I cried twice during Once We Were Brothers since the deaths were like loosing a friend.
The type of audience that would enjoy this novel is everybody who likes to read about fictional historical accounts, triumphs in the face of adversity, and mysteries. For people who adored The Book Thief, Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson is the book for you!