Bros. was once frequently seen at the end of names of companies headed by brothers. Van Lieshout uses the abbreviation to indicate a breach in the relationship between two brothers and the premature end of a young life.
Luuk is sixteen when he takes over his dead brother’s diary. He doesn’t feel easy about violating Marius’s privacy but it is the only way he can save the diary from the bonfire his mother is about to start of his brother’s stuff.
Since it would be out of the question for his mother to burn the thoughts of her living son, he starts filling the diary’s blank pages, even writing between his brother’s lines. In the resulting dialogue, Luuk discovers what it was that linked the two of them. Marius too knew the loneliness of being different. He too felt more attracted to boys than to girls. But because it’s difficult to be open about those kind of feelings, it is only now that Luuk realizes the link. This experience encourages him to stop hiding his own homosexuality.
Luuk’s mourning for a brother who died too soon and his own coming out make Gebr. a moving story in which three stubborn individualists discover too late that feelings can be shared. The story is set during carnival, six months after Marius’s death. While his parents are trying to drown their sorrow, reading and writing in his brother’s diary takes Luuk back to the months before Marius’s death. Memories of Marius trembling and shaking, his gradual loss of his memory, the incompetent reactions of the doctors and the painful and inevitable farewell raise all kinds of questions. Can you be someone’s brother when that brother no longer exists? Is a mother’s sorrow worse than a brother’s? And can brothers be friends? ‘You can choose your friends, or they you, but brothers can’t leave each other.’
Although this story novel of adolescence is told in a sophisticated way, its real importance is its authentic setting and the encounter between the two brothers. The dialogue of two points of view across the border of death brings Luuk’s own doubts and insecurity to life. The expressive language and balanced composition make Gebr. a reading experience which will leave no one untouched.