Fate was working against little Brian Mauretti. The food that was meant to nourish him was poisoning him instead, and the doctors said the damage was devastating and absolute. Fate had written off Brian. But fate didn’t count on a woman as determined as Brian’s grandmother, Angela DiMartino – who everyone knew as Mama. Loving her grandson with everything she had, Mama endeavored to battle fate. Fate had no idea what it was in for.
An emotional tale about the strength of family bonds, unconditional love, and the perseverance to do our best with the challenging gifts we receive, GOODNIGHT, BRIAN is an uplifting tribute to what happens when giving up is not an option.
PUBLICATION DATE: January 8, 2013
# OF PAGES: 308
Buy ‘Goodnight, Brian’
About the Author:Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestseller TWELVE MONTHS and PRESSED PENNIES, THE UNEXPECTED STORM: The Gulf War Legacy, and JACOB EVANS, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly N ews. Recently, three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.
Enough time had passed for the shock of Brian’s condition to wear off. Joan had stumbled beyond the grieving process and had given up negotiating with God. She was now at a place called rage. Mama sat with her daughter at the kitchen table, trying to help her make sense of it all. “Maybe Brian’s a test from God?” Mama suggested.
“Why would God test a little baby who’s never done a thing wrong? Why would He test an innocent child?” Joan snapped back.
Mama shook her head. “I didn’t say God was testing Brian,” she said evenly. There was a thoughtful pause. “Maybe He’s testing everyone around Brian?”
“I don’t want to hear that!” Joan roared. “My son will never be able to enjoy the life of other people who don’t…”
Mama slapped her hand on the Formica table, stopping Joan in mid-sentence and turning her face into that of a seven-year-old girl’s. “Not another negative word, do you hear me?” she yelled back, quickly grabbing her daughter’s hands and holding them tightly. “Positive, Joan – everything must be positive! Negative calls for negative and positive brings forth positive. Brian’s already facing some unfair challenges. We have to be positive, Joan. We just have to be!”
Joan wiped her eyes. “But what if the doctor’s right, Ma?” she muttered in a tortured voice. “What if…”
Without letting Joan’s hands go, Mama took a deep breath and started in on her own tirade. “The doctors don’t know what the hell they’re talking about! I had a grandmother who lived her whole life as a brittle diabetic, but she ate anything she wanted. She died three days before her eighty-fifth birthday. Your grandfather supposedly had cirrhosis of the liver, but lived with his bottle for forty more years until old age took him. They don’t know beans! Besides, we need to have faith in a higher source.” She pulled her crucifix away from her neck and kissed it. “You have to believe, Joan. Before any of the healing can take place, you have to believe that it will.” She nodded and lowered her tone. “Only God knows how… and that’s enough.”
Joan placed her face in her hands and began to cry. She was now completely removed from her rage and safely returned to the stage of grief. “I’m…just… so…scared,” she stuttered, sobbing.
Mama stroked her hair. “Don’t you worry, love. They say that children are raised by a village.” She nodded her gray, curly head. “I think it’s about time we had a village meeting.”
As promised, I am back with my review – or will be, as soon as I dry the tears in my eyes and splash cold water on my face. Goodnight Brian is a truly remarkable book and it next to impossible to review the book without book quotes and giving away part of the storyline.
The title would have you believe that Brian is the main character in the book, and while he is definitely at the heart of the story, it is Mama who at the center. Brian was born with a nutritional disorder that was intent on destroying him and leaving him severely handicapped. And while his mother and father were at a loss as they sat in front of a doctor telling them that he would never walk or talk, or accomplish even the smallest of tasks, it is his grandmother, Mama, who refuses to accept defeat – and with her faith, erased the word “can’t” from the families vocabulary.
“Joan, you listen to me right now. That doctor’s wrong! Brian’s going to write his own story. He’s going to sing his own song and no one’s going to sing it for him. It’s his life and it’s between him and God…not some fool doctor who’s had so much schooling that he’s forgotten the power of faith.”
“No such word as can’t!” she blurted. “Brian is abled, not disabled…and we’re never going to treat him like he’s handicapped. Let him learn to do it for himself, please.”
There is so much to say about this book. The story shows the love and determination of a family matriarch determined to have her grandson be as self-sufficient as he possibly can. Mama devotes every fiber of her being to Brian and enlists the help of everyone in the family; aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings. She teaches the children that Brian is like a butterfly and they must allow him his struggles and not do everything for him. She instills life lessons at every turn as only a grandmother can. I loved the analogy the author used about the butterfly and it becomes a thread throughout the book. She used it to explain to the children that instead of doing for Brian, they needed to let Brian figure some things out.
“Butterflies start out as fuzzy, crawly caterpillars.”…”And when the time’s just right, each caterpillar forms its own cocoon. About two weeks later, when it’s time for them to fly off into the world as a butterfly, they have to struggle with all their might to break out of that cocoon. And believe me, they can’t fly until they’ve struggled for a very long time.” She searched their faces. “If they didn’t have to struggle,” she explained, “then they wouldn’t be able to build up the muscles that they need to fly.” She looked at Brian and rubbed his belly. “We don’t want our little boy to be a caterpillar forever, right?”…”Brian’s our butterfly, so he’s going to have to learn how to break out of his own cocoon.”
It was Mama who took over and did what needed to be done when the parents had exhausted themselves. This grandmother’s love, deep faith, and determination holds the family together and it is Brian who teaches the family about unconditional love. The book also showed the real human side to the parents as one parent was better able to cope with the handicaps than the other. Mama was a wise woman and the life lessons she imparted to her loved ones throughout the book, I also found myself taking them to heart.
Goodnight Brian is a heart wrenching, heart lifting read that goes so much deeper into the soul of the reader than I have words for. I recommend this book to everyone, regardless of a favorite genre.
“Heaven is our reality,” her mother explained. “It’s life on Earth that’s the dream.”
“So you think Ross is ready for a new brother or sister?” Moma asked…”It’s gonna sound strange, Ma, but it’s like he’s more protective of the baby than jealous”…As if on cue, Ross walked into the kitchen and approached his mother. After giving her belly one quick rub, he headed back to the T.V.
“I don’t know…maybe nothing. It’s just that since I put Brian on the formula, he’s been irritable and even cries sometimes after feedings. And that’s not like him”…As she yawned, she spotted Brian lying motionless in his crib, a zombie’s expression on his face. “Oh God!” she screamed and leaped to her feet, nearly tripping from the lack of blood in her legs. Her baby was gray, with big, black circles under his eyes. He’d lost so many bodily fluids through the night that he was scratching at death’s door.
Mama sat with her daughter at the kitchen table, trying to help her make sense of it all. “Maybe Brian’s a test from God?” Mama suggested. “Why would God test a little baby who’s never done a thing wrong? Why would He test an innocent child?” Joan snapped back. Mama shook her head. “I didn’t say God was testing Brian,” she said evenly. There was a thoughtful pause. “Maybe He’s testing everyone around Brian?”
“I’m just so scared,” she (Joan) stuttered, sobbing. Mama stroked her hair. “Don’t you worry, love. They say that children are raised by a village.” She nodded her gray, curly head. “I think it’s about time we had a village meeting.”
“Here’s the real secret to succeeding in life: You get knocked down, you get back up. You get knocked down again, you get back up. It’s not getting knocked down that’s the problem. Life does that to everyone. It’s when you don’t get back up that you’re in trouble.”…”Fortunately, Brian refuses to stay down.”
- Book Review: Goodnight Brian by Steven Manchester (hotchpotching.wordpress.com)