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Summer Brother
Cover of Summer Brother
Summer Brother

LONGLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2021

Summer Brother is an honest, tender account of brotherly love between a disabled boy and his abled brother, which will resonate with readers of Rain Man.

"Dutch author Jaap Robben's second novel shows us the shedding of innocence. Summer Brother, translated by David Doherty, shakes out over a hot summer, during that potent lull when characters so splendidly boil, burst and bloom...Summer Brother grapples with the consequences of carelessness and the abuse of power and trust, even if the violation is unintentional...Robben is wonderful at drawing characters with just a few deliberate strokes...Like a photographer shooting a portrait, Robben captures his subjects in Summer Brother in a focused close-up." New York Times

Thirteen-year-old Brian lives in a trailer on a forgotten patch of land with his divorced and uncaring father. His older brother Lucien, physically and mentally disabled, has been institutionalized for years. While Lucien's home is undergoing renovations, he is sent to live with his father and younger brother for the summer. Their detached father leaves Brian to care for Lucien's special needs. But how do you look after someone when you don't know what they need? How do you make the right choices when you still have so much to discover? Summer Brother is an honest, tender account of brotherly love, which will resonate with readers of Rain Man.

LONGLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2021

Summer Brother is an honest, tender account of brotherly love between a disabled boy and his abled brother, which will resonate with readers of Rain Man.

"Dutch author Jaap Robben's second novel shows us the shedding of innocence. Summer Brother, translated by David Doherty, shakes out over a hot summer, during that potent lull when characters so splendidly boil, burst and bloom...Summer Brother grapples with the consequences of carelessness and the abuse of power and trust, even if the violation is unintentional...Robben is wonderful at drawing characters with just a few deliberate strokes...Like a photographer shooting a portrait, Robben captures his subjects in Summer Brother in a focused close-up." New York Times

Thirteen-year-old Brian lives in a trailer on a forgotten patch of land with his divorced and uncaring father. His older brother Lucien, physically and mentally disabled, has been institutionalized for years. While Lucien's home is undergoing renovations, he is sent to live with his father and younger brother for the summer. Their detached father leaves Brian to care for Lucien's special needs. But how do you look after someone when you don't know what they need? How do you make the right choices when you still have so much to discover? Summer Brother is an honest, tender account of brotherly love, which will resonate with readers of Rain Man.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 7, 2020
    A teenager’s life is upended by the unexpected return home of his disabled brother in this unsettling novel from Dutch writer Robben (You Have Me to Love). Brian Chevalier, 13, lives in a ramshackle trailer with his underemployed father, Maurice. His older brother, Lucien, who has unspecified congenital disability, has been living in a group home, until Maurice accepts a subsidy to take care of Lucien and saddles Brian with all the work while he leaves for long, unexplained chunks of time. With the help of neighbor Emile, squeamish and impatient Brian tries his best. He also risks Lucien’s safety, tying him to a bed so he can leave to visit Selma, a 19-year-old resident of Lucien’s home, who encourages Brian to sexually experiment with her. As Maurice’s shady, threatening landlords pressure him to pay off debts and Brian’s new school year approaches, Brian and Lucien’s concerned mother, from whom Maurice is estranged, brings the tenuous situation to a head. Flashbacks explain the disintegration of Brian’s family and his conflicted feelings about his brother, though the distressing treatment of the disabled characters feels oddly gratuitous. Robben’s tragic tale of generational dysfunction muddies the waters to inscrutable effect.

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2021
    In this thoughtful, empathetic Dutch novel, a 13-year-old boy struggles to care for his disabled brother. Since his parents split up, Brian Chevalier hasn't seen his mother or his older brother, Lucien, who is mentally and physically disabled, very often. He lives with his father, Maurice, in a trailer, learning to underpay shopkeepers and squeeze extra money out of tenants in the extra trailer they manage. But when the care home where Lucien lives lets Maurice know he'll have to move home temporarily due to renovations, Brian's life dramatically changes. His mother is on her honeymoon, and Lucien can't stay with her, leaving Brian responsible for Lucien. Although he loves his brother, Brian is too young to care for him by himself, and Maurice is often nowhere to be found. A new, friendly neighbor, Emile, tries to help out but only attracts Maurice's wrath while the owners of the trailer, Jean and Henri, threaten to evict them. Robben, who has written one other novel for adults (You Have Me To Love, 2018) as well as a number of books for children, skillfully conjures a sense of unease, most notably through Brian's first-person narration. Like most children who grow up in neglectful or abusive households, Brian does not fully understand that his father's behavior is inappropriate, dangerous, or both, and he treats his brother with sometimes cavalier disregard, at one point tying him to the bed in order to leave to go see a girl at the care home on whom he has a crush. This can be upsetting, yet Brian's love for his brother, and Robben's care in writing his disabled characters, remains clear throughout this nuanced novel. A sensitive yet unsentimental depiction of poverty and disability from the perspective of an abled character.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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