Book Review: Run, Brother, Run by David Berg

Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family by David Berg

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A searing family memoir of a tempestuous Texas boyhood that led to the vicious murder of the author’s brother As William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” This observation seems especially true in matters of family, when the fury between generations is often never resolved and instead secretly carried, a wound that cannot heal. For David Berg, this is truer than for most, and once you read the story of his family, you will understand why he held it privately for so long and why the betrayals between parent and child can be the most wrenching of all.

In 1968 David Berg’s brother, Alan, was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a notorious hit man and father of actor Woody Harrelson. Alan was only thirty-one when he disappeared; six months later his remains were found in a ditch in Texas. Run, Brother, Run is Berg’s story of the murder. But it is also his account of the psychic destruction of the Berg family by the author’s father, who allowed a grievous blunder at the age of twenty-three to define his life. The event changed the fate of a clan and fell most heavily on Alan, the firstborn son, who tried to both redeem and escape his father yet could not.

This achingly painful family history is also a portrait of an iconic American place, playing out in the shady bars of Houston, in small-town law offices and courtrooms, and in remote ranch lands where bad things happen—a true-crime murder drama, all perfectly calibrated. Writing with cold-eyed grief and a wild, lacerating humor, Berg tells us first about the striving Jewish family that created Alan Berg and set him on a course for self-destruction and then about the gross miscarriage of justice that followed.

As with the best and most powerfully written memoirs, the author has kept this horrific story to himself for a long time. A scrappy and pugnacious narrator, Berg takes his account into the darkest human behaviors: the epic battles between father and son, marital destruction, reckless gambling, crooked legal practices, extortion, and, of course, cold-blooded murder. Run, Brother, Run is a raw, furious, bawdy, and scathing testimonial about love, hate, and pain— and utterly unforgettable.

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This book is full of liars, cheats, backstabbers—all the kind of people you don’t want in your life. Which makes it even more alarming that this is a memoir. Readers love to indulge in stories about the dark side of human nature, because at the end of the book the story is fiction. This memoir showcases human nature at its filthiest, and it is all fact.

In 272 pages you explore every single emotion. You hate, you love and sometimes you even feel bone-chilling fear. The book is made even more intriguing when you learn the identity of the accused murderer is Charles Harrelson, the father of Woody Harrelson. It is one thing to read a disturbing memoir about individuals whom are not in the spotlight, is an entirely different level to read the pages and think wow, I just saw this actor in a film, what a terrible thing for him to endure to live with such a evil father. The iconic face of Woody Harrelson tugs at the readers emotions because we feel because we know his face and his voice that we can sympathize for him, almost as though he were a friend.

Truly, there are no redeeming characters. Every main character has the worst traits of humanity. Lawyers are liars, police are corrupt, there is absolutely no quality to redeem any character.

The amount of dialogue between the lawyers was fantastic. As someone with no knowledge of courtroom laws, it was wonderful to see this dialogue so often, and to time-and-time again be shocked by the shady nature of members of the law community.

A perfect read to chill your bones on hot summer nights.

 

 

About Lisa Lunney

A Canadian gal that firmly believes words can change the world. An avid reader, writer and Autumn/Winter lover. She excels at communications and writes for pleasure and profession.
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