Opening like a fairy tale and ending like a nightmare, this cannonball of a queer coming-of-age novel follows a young man's relationship with a violent older boyfriend—and how he and his sister survive a terrible crime
After years of severed communication, Justin appears on his sister’s doorstep needing a place to stay. The home he's made for himself has collapsed, as has everything else in his life. When they were children, Willa played the role of her brother’s protector, but now, afraid of the chaos he might bring, she’s reluctant to let him in.
Willa lives a carefully ordered life working as a nurse and making ornate dioramas in her spare time. As Justin tries to connect with the people she’s closest to—her landlord, her boyfriend, their mother—she begins to feel exposed. Willa and Justin’s relationship has always been strained yet loving, frustrating and close. But it hits a new breaking point when Justin spirals out of control, unable to manage his sobriety and the sustained effects of a brain injury.
Years earlier, in high school, desperate to escape his home life and his disapproving, troubled mother, Justin falls into the hands of his first lover, a slightly older boy living on his own who offers Justin some semblance of intimacy and refuge. When Justin’s boyfriend commits a terrifying act of violence, the two flee on a doomed road trip, a journey that will damage Justin and change his and his family’s lives forever.
Weaving together these two timelines, Brother & Sister Enter the Forest unravels the thread of a young man’s trauma and the love waiting for him on the other side.
Mirabella debuts with the moving story of two estranged siblings whose attempt at reconnection forces them to reckon with and mend their individual wounds. Willa, a 30-something nurse, is dating a quintessential Good Guy—a farm boy turned veterinary student—but keeps him at arm's length. In her youth, her troubled older brother, Justin, was the kind of miserable attention-getter who "the trees bowed around." Fifteen years ago, Justin went on the lam with his lover, Nick, after Nick assaulted a homophobic bully. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their fugitive run turned violent. As well, Justin has struggled with alcoholism, and one day he arrives on Willa's doorstep, hoping to be healed by the one person who's looked out for him. Willa, though, is hesitant, having been the peacekeeper between Justin and their mother as a child. The relationship between Willa and Justin is by turns contentious and tender, though the shifts in their interactions sometimes feel engineered to raise the dramatic stakes. Mirabella's plain prose, meanwhile, belies the melancholic bitterness of the characters' strained exchanges. It's a gripping if sometimes maudlin meditation on the difficulties of youth and the salvation that can be found in family.