BOOK NOTES: Latest John Michael Cummings Novel, 'Don't Forget Me, Bro' to be Published in October by Stephen F. Austin State University Press

By David M. Kinchen
John Michael Cummings
John Michael Cummings

 As a book reviewer, I'm always on the lookout for outstanding writers. John Michael Cummings, born in 1963 in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, is one of the finest I've encountered. His latest novel, "Don't Forget Me, Bro" is a prime example of the wonderful storytelling that seems to be part of the DNA of West Virginians. In this novel, with about 225 pages,  Mark Barr, a writer, leaves his apartment in Brooklyn to return to West Virginia for the funeral of his troubled brother, Steve. Mark is well aware of another writer from below the Mason-Dixon Line, Thomas Wolfe, and his novel "You Can't Go Home Again." But Mark feels he has to honor the last words he heard from Steve: "Don't Forget Me, Bro." The novel, slated for publication in October,  shows the brilliance I discovered reading his short story collection, "Ugly to Start With" and his novel "The Night I Freed John Brown."

Here's the synopsis of the book, supplied by Cummings:

DON’T FORGET ME, BRO deals with themes of childhood abuse, mental illness, and alienated families. The book opens with the main character, forty-two-year-old Mark Barr, who has returned home from New York to West Virginia after eleven years for his older brother Steve’s funeral. Steve, having died of a heart attack at forty-five, was mentally ill most of his adult life, though Mark has always questioned what was "mentally ill" and what was the result of their father’s verbal and physical abuse during their childhood. 

The book unfolds into an odyssey for Mark to discover love for his brother posthumously in a loveless family.    

DON’T FORGET ME, BRO is a portrait of an oldest brother’s supposed mental illness and unfulfilled life, as well as a redeeming tale of a youngest brother’s alienation from his family and his guilt for abandoning them.

Details of the book aren't available at this time. I'll follow up on the publication information. The publisher's web site is:

 Stephen F. Austin State University Press is located in Nacogdoches, TX.

 About the author 

John Michael Cummings (born 1963 in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia) is an American short story writer and novelist. His short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Iowa Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

Link to my review of his short story collection "Ugly to Start With":

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