Booker International Longlist 2021 – Summer Brother by Jaap Robben
Booker International Longlist Book 6 rated by panellist Tracy
Translated by David Doherty from Dutch
Published by World Editions
Details from the official Booker Site: 13-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 institutionalised 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?
About the Author
Jaap Robben is a poet, playwright, performer, and acclaimed children’s author. You Have Me to Love, his first novel for adults, won the 2014 Dutch Booksellers Award, the Dioraphte Prize, and the ANV Award for best Dutch debut. Robben was chosen as one of the featured debut authors at the 2018 Brooklyn Book Festival. Summer Brother is his second novel.
Tracy’s Thoughts: Brian lives with his conman father, and the summer he’s thirteen, his father hatches a plan to bring Lucien, Brian’s older brother, to their home for care while the nursing home he resides in is under construction.
Brian understands little- he’s still a child- and he’s the first person narrator for the story. He isn’t sure what his brother’s condition is called, just that he thinks it happened during his mother’s pregnancy. His parents are divorced, and he’s not sure why, or where his mother even is. And his father is less than useless- he’s never home, and doesn’t even tell Brian what his job is.
Brian has a lot of growing up to do, and he gets some of that accomplished this summer, as he is left alone to be the nurse, feeder, bather and physical therapist for Lucien.
This book had the potential to be sentimental, but the author didn’t go that direction- this is a brash coming of age book that forces the reader to stand aside as Brian is shoved into situations that many adults wouldn’t be able to handle. Despite its bleakness, though, Brian is still optimistic.
The characters in this book were very well done- it can’t be easy to take on the voice of a thirteen year old- the age where a kid has no attention span and an overdeveloped sense of selfishness. And Lucien, though being placed in a crass man’s home, was treated by the author with respect to his condition.
Writing quality: 4.5/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 3.5/4
Overall enjoyment: 1.5/2
At Night all Blood is Black 18/20
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed 18/20
Summer Brother 17.5/20
The Pear Field 17/20
The Employees 16/20
The War of the Poor 11.25/20
Have you read this one? What did you think?