Alfred Eaker’s story is a harrowing tale of violence, abuse, lies, and conflict — yet it ends in hope. There is redemption: in art, beauty, friendship, love, and God, where, in the midst of sin and the wreckage of life, the light of grace pours abundantly through the cracks and crevices. Eaker’s control of the language and emotional power carries the reader through to the place where the peace that surpasses all understanding dwells. Highly recommended.
Jason Pannone, Reference & Cultural Assets Manager, East Hartford Public Library, art curator.
Artists have the uncanny ability to recognize the beauty in challenging and difficult life experiences. This is exactly what Alfred Eaker has done with this novel. Calvin is raised by a dysfunctional and abusive family. His lone confidant is his grandfather, the only member of his family to understand and support him, and the one who passes on an appreciation of art and music. It is Calvin’s skill and understanding of the fine arts that gives him the strength to move into a stable and productive adult life.
Interwoven into the story are psychological, theological, ethical, and religious dimensions that call organized religion as well as social and moral structures to accountability. These deeper aspects of the story will challenge readers to reflect on their own lives and to develop the empathy we all need to make our lives ever better and better.
This story has motivated me to review again the Mahler Symphonies!
Fr. Justin Belitz OFM
Alfred Eaker’s Brother Cobweb is a great example of a whole-hearted Bildungsroman – a novel that finds humor and a little horror in the coming-of-age story of Calvin, an artist living in an evangelical universe that constantly enthralls and disgusts him. Eaker writes about Calvin’s journey with up-close panache, and a sort of Pop Art irony fused with newfound faith. By the end of Brother Cobweb, you have insight not only into what it means to be free of a religion you don’t need, but also what it feels like to find an actual spirituality that can carry you through.
Keith Banner is the co-founder of Visionaries + Voices and Thunder-Sky, Inc., two non-profit arts organizations in Cincinnati. He is a social worker for people with developmental disabilities full-time and has taught creative writing part-time at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) for over 20 years. He has published three works of fiction, The Life I Lead, a novel (Knopf, 1999), The Smallest People Alive (Carnegie Mellon Press, 2004), a book of short stories, and Next to Nothing (Lethe Press, 2014), his second collection of stories. He has published numerous short stories and essays in magazines and journals, including American Folk Art Messenger, Other Voices, Washington Square, Kenyon Review, and Third Coast. He received an O. Henry prize for his short story, “The Smallest People Alive,” and an Ohio Arts Council individual artist fellowship for fiction. The Smallest People Alive was named one of the best books of the year by Publisher’s Weekly. Next to Nothingwas nominated for the Lambda Literary Award in 2015.
*This is Todd M. Coe’s early, unused cover art for the novel
All Calvin Elkan has ever wanted to do is escape his mother and her Pentecostal church, the Lighthouse. Calvin is eternally at odds with the brutal abuses and ignorance of his upbringing in a right-wing evangelical sect in Ohio. Under the guidance of his great-grandfather, he turns to art and music to escape his mother’s blows and the grip of the Lighthouse. He spins the dark world around him into a satirical comic called The Brother Cobweb Chronicles. After high school, Calvin moves out and enrolls in art school, finally free of his oppressive childhood home.
But after a brush with death, Calvin realizes escape isn’t enough.
Through his artwork and a newfound sense of spirituality, Calvin works through the emotional trauma and distances himself from his past only to uncover yet another ugly secret from the Lighthouse—a secret that makes him question everything.
Brother Cobweb is a coming-of-age saga with a misfit, paradoxical artist at its center. Alfred Eaker’s debut novel seeks to change perspectives through innovative language, dark humor, and marginalized subculture. A surreal and provocative odyssey, it is sure to strike a nerve as it exposes the abuses and hypocrisy of an all-too-familiar Midwestern evangelical church.
- Our Price: $18.99 + $3 S+H for one or more copies in continental US. Contact us for school and book club discounts.
- Print ISBN: 978-1-941799-74-1
- eBook ISBN: 978-1-941799-75-8
- 310 pgs – 6 in. x 9 in. matte paperback
- Publication Date: April 12, 2020
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About the Author
Alfred Eaker has been obsessively working on his first novel, Brother Cobweb, for the last five years and, off and on, for a quarter of a century. Additionally, his first eighteen years were spent in a ho-de-ho, backwoods, sawdust on the floor, wooden pews Pentecostal Church in the Midwest. In other words, Eaker’s been working toward this novel his whole damned life.
In his career as an artist, Eaker’s work has been paradoxically labeled as degenerate, orthodox, heterodox, modernist, mystical theology, provocative, academic, and blasphemous. Indeed, blasphemy is a language that Eaker seems to speak fluently, even when he doesn’t mean to, and he’s been doing it through painting, performance art, independent film, and film criticism for three decades.
Oh, and he has a few degrees in theology and art.