A brilliant, troubled brother

In this incredibly vivid book — Every Last Tie — David Kaczynski tells the story of the Unabomber

(Ted Kaczynski, David’s older brother) and his family.  It’s a gripping tale of a younger brother’s love for his older brother, and how this younger brother came to to see not only his severe mental illness but also came to believe that his brother also made some awful decisions to injure and kill people.

What makes the book so sobering is not just the telling of the early life of these brothers but the fact that in the end it actually was David Kaczynski’s wife Linda that convinced him that his older brother Ted might very well be the Unabomber that the F.B.I. so wanted to find.

David did not believe her at first but then became increasingly persuaded it was true and ultimately makes the decision to inform the F.B.I. that the man they so want to stop may in fact be his own dear brother.

David, about 10 years younger than Ted,  lovely and honestly tells the story of his smart, promising Chicago brother who, by age 27, was a Ph.D. and math professor at U.C. Berkley.  As promising as it looked, it wasn’t long before Ted Kaczynski began descending into madness from severe mental illness.  He quit his professorship at UC Berkley before long and moved to rural Montana where he lived in near isolation for more than 20 years.

Ultimately, he committed some awful deeds of domestic terror (sending bombs in the mail) against humanity. He was captured and arrested in 1996 in his Montana cabin. he now, at age 73, is spending the rest of life in prison in the SuperMax prison in Florence, Colorado. David has had no contact with Ted for more than 20 years.

As I read the story of this Chicago family who read books together and loved camping, I found myself shaking my head repeatedly and saying “What a strange, sad story.  What a mystery.”

David Kaczynski does not excuse his brother’s awful decisions to kill people. No, he finds them utterly despicable. But he does humanize his brother Ted in this book.  He tells the story of his youth well, but it left me sad and perplexed.  

… Still, this is a powerful, provocative book.

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