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Unlikely Brothers

Our Story of Adventure, Loss, and Redemption

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“You don’t look like brothers . . .”

Peace activist and cofounder of the Enough Project, John Prendergast is known as a champion of human rights in Africa. 

But the not-so-public face of J.P. is the life he’s led as a Big Brother to Michael Mattocks. As a curious, driven, and emotionally wounded twenty-year-old, J.P. made the life-changing decision to form a “Big Brother/Little Brother” relationship with then seven-year-old Michael, who was living out of plastic bags and drifting from one homeless shelter to the next with his mother and siblings. Lacking a connection with his own brother and distancing himself from a disastrous relationship with his father, J.P. formed a unique bond with Michael the moment they met. Michael and J.P. became like family, with Michael and some of his siblings even living with J.P. one summer. In the years that followed, J.P. took Michael and his brothers on outings, whether it was fishing, playing basketball, patronizing cheap restaurants, or going on road trips. This friendship would continue for over twenty-five years as the two coped with varying degrees of violence, instability, and trauma in their own lives. 
Told in duet, Unlikely Brothers follows Michael as he grows up on the tough streets of Washington, D.C., where as a young teenager he watched his best friend get shot, dropped out of school, and started dealing crack cocaine shortly thereafter. By sixteen, Michael had become the kingpin of his neighborhood, guns and drugs always close at hand. Meanwhile, J.P. was traveling to and from African war zones. J.P. offered Michael a refuge from the streets, never really confronting the gravity of what Michael was going through in his adolescence. In turn, Michael afforded J.P. an escape from his own turbulent personal and professional life.

As the years go by, the two swoop in and out of each other’s lives, slowly disconnecting as they disappear into their respective worlds, but making their way back to each other at a critical moment for both of them. The effect the two have on each other is extremely significant to both of their paths to redemption.

Inspirational and deeply moving, Unlikely Brothers beautifully showcases how life’s most random moments can often be the most profound.  

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 07, 2011 – Two intertwining first-person accounts cover a 25-year span in this double narrative: Mattocks writes about growing up in homeless shelters and heading into a heavy drug scene as a teenager, while human rights activist Prendergast, a director of African affairs at the National Security Council and a special adviser at the Department of State during the Clinton administration, narrates from his point of view. In 1983, while visiting a friend who ran a D.C. homeless shelter, Prendergast met seven-year-old Mattocks and his six-year-old brother, James: "These boys had nothing and yet radiated with life and sunshine." As recalled by Mattocks, "J.P. got into it. He became a kid when he was with us." Mattocks was taken fishing, and he met Prendergast's parents, who lived in a "big-ass house" in Philadelphia. Their bond continued as Prendergast returned from trips to Africa, confronting the bureaucracy of foreign aid, while Mattocks, in D.C., became involved with alcohol, weed, weapons, and crack. While Mattocks was suffering arrests, shoot-outs, and Russian roulette, Prendergast was shot at in Somalia and had a gun stuck in his mouth on the Rwanda/Congo border; he eventually landed on the White House staff at age 33. In the end, this is a fascinating account of a long-standing friendship.

Customer Reviews

Michael needs his own book!

I really enjoyed reading about Michael! I felt that there were many other stories that he could tell about his life and his siblings but needed to share book space with John P. I would buy a book that was completely about Michael in a heartbeat! Although John P's life is interesting, Michael's life is riveting!

Unlikely Brothers
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: May 17, 2011
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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