Two Half Brothers, or Separating Out

The action of Two Half Brothers, or Separating Out shifts back and forth between two periods, two regions, and two brothers.


In 1968, Audrey McGuire, dying of cancer in New York, sends her oldest son, Steven, abroad to retrieve her second son, Paul. Locating Paul in Morocco, Steven grows more perplexed and maddened by his artistic half brother’s recurring disappearances and reappearances. The search-and-rescue mission eventually takes Steven into Berber country in the High Atlas Mountains, where he loses his health, his personal belongings, and his sense of well-being. Steven further loses his bearings when, immersed in Paul’s gay society on the colonial plateau of a nouvelle ville on the Atlantic Coastline, he must depend entirely upon others he does not know, does not trust, and does not understand—including Paul.

Sample pages:  Moroccan Map  •  Chapters 1 & 2


In 1978, closer to home in Southeastern Oregon, the two brothers’ misadventures in North Africa are echoed during a week of hide-and-seek antics in the contemporary Wild West. Paul’s perpetually free-lance, non-conformist lifestyle threatens Steven’s more establishmentarian one: by now Steven is a biology instructor, a field ornithologist, and a husband with child. The older brother’s familiar inner conflicts are played out as we witness his evolving response to the moral dilemma repeatedly foisted upon him: Will he forever be his younger brother’s keeper?

Partially narrated through harrowing, bare-bones dialogues, as well as Steven’s desperate phone calls and reflective letters to his wife, Two Half Brothers proceeds in chapters alternating between the episodes of 1968 and those of 1978. Embedded in vivid, textural descriptions of travelogue, laced through with lyrical observations of the natural world, the story of these two Westerners’ misadventures moves in taut suspense until, on Mt. Deception in Oregon’s High Desert, Paul foments one last upheaval, stepping into then out of his older brother’s life forever—or maybe not.

Sample pages: Chapter 17  •  California/Oregon Map

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