Monday, March 4, 2019

Bully Brother by Craig Dial

Bully Brother by Craig Dial
Publsihed by Craig Dial ISBN 9781982991272
Available on Kindle for $4.99, free on Kindle Unlimited, $9.99 trade paperback 252 pages

What drew me to Craig Dial's memoir Bully Brother is that Craig is one of five children who grew up in the 1960s and '70s, like my husband and I both did.

The book opens with a disturbing scene where eight-year-old Craig's older brother David has him pinned to the ground and is tormenting him. Craig screams for help, but no one comes. David torments Craig physically and emotionally, and Craig is fearful of him. Brothers tease each other and fight with each other, but this is something more disturbing.

Craig's mom told him just to stay away from David, but David would seek him out to hurt him. On the occasions when David was nice to Craig, like when he would help him improve his baseball skills, things were good.

The Dial family lived in Marin County, near San Francisco and growing up the late '60s and '70s, that meant the height of of the hippie movement. When the Dial family would picnic in Golden Gate Park, Craig would be fascinated by the people, especially the beautiful young women.

His dad had to drive hours in awful traffic to get to his stressful white collar job as a cost estimator for a construction company, and was exhausted by the time he got home. The chapter when Craig gets to spend the day at his dad's office is a real eye-opener for the young boy, and I found it interesting as well.

His mom is Italian, and she believes that food can solve any problem. She is a fantastic cook, which gets her in trouble when her husband hires contractors to work at the house and she makes them big lunches that take up hours and make them logy. The job took longer than it should have.

There are lots of great scenes in this book- the family packing up for their annual camping trip to Yosemite, where Dad would construct an elaborate addition to their campsite and Mom would prepare delicious meals for all, was wonderful.

When Craig is old enough to work, he gets a job cleaning at a meat company. He hosed down and cleaned all the butchering implements, a disgusting, dirty and dangerous job. I think young people today might be shocked at what he had to do. Craig had a second job washing dishes at a restaurant, and third job at a food packing plant and again, it might surprise many teens today that he worked three jobs and went to high school.

Craig's relationship with his brother is at the heart of this story, and the end is a sad one. It's a very complicated sibling relationship, and one that haunts Craig to this day.

What I enjoyed about Bully Brother is Dial's story of growing up in a family of seven in the '60s and '70s. He had the same cultural touchstones as I do, so I loved the music references and the playlist he curates at the end. The descriptions of his mother's food had me drooling.

Reviewing self-published books is always tricky. I really liked the story, but the grammatical errors and sometimes stilted dialogue were distracting.  (A good copy editor could have helped.) If you are the kind of person who can't overlook that, maybe this isn't for you. But I was able to overlook that and I'm glad I read Bully Brother. I find myself thinking about it long after I read it.


  1. I like the sound of the story but would probably struggle with the things you mentioned. Maybe a publisher will pick this up one day.

  2. Thank you Diane for reviewing Bully Brother. I will work on fixing the errors so future copies will be corrected.
    I am glad you enjoyed my story and the music that connected it all together. - Craig