Book Review: Jack Kerouac’s “The Sea is My Brother”

Anyone that has followed this blog for more than a few weeks knows I am a huge fan of Jack Kerouac. He is my literary inspiration and, in all honesty, the reason behind several of my major educational moves in the last five years. Don’t believe me?

Check this out.
Or this.

Yeah, I’m a huge fan of the Beats generation, and Kerouac is the king of my bibliophilic universe.

For my 30th birthday, I visited Park Ave CDs in Winter Park (awesome place to go if you love vinyls, good music, cool people, and an eclectic selection of books) and found myself face to face with The Sea is My Brother, the lost novel of Jack Kerouac.

The Sea is My Brother is the very first novel, previously unpublished, by Jack Kerouac, and it was written when he was just 21 years old. My first impression? He was a better writer at 21 than I am at 31. But that’s neither here nor there.

The novel (closer to a novella, really, as it’s only about 150 pages) tells the story of two protagonists: Wesley Martin, a wanderer who feels most connected with life when at sea, and Bill Everhart, a wise professor who feels hypocritical for living a life of “ideas” but in the confined safety of Columbia’s walls. After a chance encounter, the two become friends and Wesley brings Bill along into his world.

The novel explores the meaning of life, religion, and the duality that we all face: the wandering nature of our spirit versus the security our mind seeks. Wesley and Bill are Kerouac, and the novel is an expedition into the author’s own experiences as a Merchant Marine and the internal struggle he faced trying to find the middle ground between what was safe and what was right.

In this novel, you can see the brilliance bubbling under the surface for Kerouac, and it’s no surprise that a decade later On the Road would put a spotlight on his unique voice. It’s evidently unfinished and unpolished, but I must admit Kerouac’s self-criticism (he believed the novel was a waste) was misapplied when it comes to this work. I had difficulty putting it down, and I’m already eager to reread it, less than 24 hours after the completing it.

If you’re a Kerouac fan, or just a fan iconoclastic, ego-exploring literature, I strongly suggest picking up The Sea is My Brother.

Happy reading, my friends!

~ Victoria Elizabeth

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