A tragicomic novella about a woman who doesn’t know what to do about her amputee brother—or about herself, for that matter
Esther Gerritsen is known for leavening her psychological dramas with wit and realistic dialogue. Brother is vintage Gerritsen, a short, accessible, gripping novella, ending on a positive note. It was the 2016 Dutch Book Week Gift selection with a printing of close to 650,000 copies.
“Her brother rang her just before his leg was to be amputated. She had not spoken with him for a year.” The phone call from her brother Marcus knocks the emotion- ally repressed career woman Olivia for a loop. Even though she blames her brother for having done such a poor job of manag- ing his diabetes, the news causes her to bolt from an important shareholders meeting.
Olivia leads a tightly-controlled life, and as financial director of Kyvon Serviezen, she is trying to keep the company from bankruptcy. She has two sons with her husband Gerard, who shares her “dislike of sentimentality and complaining. Too much fretting was best cured with a game of tennis. She often played tennis.” She decides to have the inconsolable Marcus come live with them while he recuperates.
But her brother’s arrival turns Olivia’s placid little life upside down. Her sons have a great time with their uncle Marcus, and are sorry their mother never joins in the fun. Her husband suddenly announces their marriage is in trouble, and her company appears to be unsalvageable. After meeting Marcus, the company founder, Mr Kyvon, thinks Marcus can be a big help in putting the loss of the firm into perspective.
Her brother’s leg may have been cut off, but it’s Olivia who feels cut off from both her family and her work. It begins to dawn on her that everyone else seems to get along with her brother except her. As the story ends, watching her husband and sons fishing alongside Marcus and Mr Kyvon, she realizes she’s watching a great happiness, one that does not include her. Fortunately, all she has to do is walk over and join them.
Brother is a masterful story about the power of family ties, loss, and letting go.