Summer Brother

“Jaap Robben handles delicate, dangerous material with subtlety and sympathy.” ―COLM TÓIBÍN

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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Publication date

February 9, 2021




Jaap Robben

Jaap Robben is a poet, playwright, performer, and acclaimed children’s author. You Have Me to Love, his first novel for adults … Read more

Book Club Questions

  1. What would you say the dominating atmosphere of this novel is? Did you find it heartwarming, tragic, frustrating, all of the above? Why?
  2. What did you feel toward Brian? How do you think he could have been helped?
  3. Do you think Brian’s dad was a good parent? Did you have empathy toward him and his situation? Where do you think he went all day?
  4. What is your opinion of Brian’s mother? How do you think she feels toward Brian?
  5. Do you think Emile was a good influence on Brian? How do you think Brian’s dad should have behaved toward Emile?
  6. How did you feel about Brian lying to his father (over the rent, over his friendship with Emile)? Do you feel this was justified?
  7. How did you feel about Brian’s care for his brother, Lucien? Do you think Lucien was in danger at any point?
  8. How do you think Lucien felt in being removed from his home?
  9. Do you think Brian behaved appropriately toward Selma, or did he take advantage? Do you think the staff of the facility were correct in their reaction?
  10. Do you think the staff at the facility took Lucien’s needs into consideration when they made their decision concerning Brian?
  11. Do you have any thoughts about what Emile may have done to end up in the trailer park? Do you think he deserves his current fate, or is it impossible to know?
  12. What do you think the future holds for each of the characters?
  13. Wasps appear at frequent intervals throughout the story. What, if any, do you think the symbolism of this is?
  14. Can you imagine living, or have you ever lived, in a place such as where Brian lives? What do you think the pros and cons would be of such an environment?
  15. Can you think of a time when a family member who required extra care came to stay and changed the dynamic of your household? Or, can you imagine the impact that such a situation could have, from both perspectives?

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Praise for Summer Brother

“A writer who crosses the ball with such elegance that there’s no need to hammer it home.”

De Volkskrant


“Subtle and refined.”

NRC Handelsblad


“Robben’s style is deceptively simple. You don’t have to be an adult to read Summer Brother, yet Robben’s imagery, subtle humor, and surprising plot will connect with the most literate of readers. The novel gives a moving insight into a boyhood that gives pause for reflection.”

De Standaard


“Like no other writer, Robben can empathize with the mind of a child and he imbues the reader with this open and uninhibited outlook as the story unfolds.”



Summer Brother is a wry and funny book about a damaged family.”

Algemeen Dagblad


“Lovingly, Robben shows Brian’s hapless attempts to deal with pills and full diapers, yet all the while he is working mercilessly towards the inevitable climax.”



“A poignant story about loyalty, disloyalty, solidarity, and puberty.”

De Limburger


“A truly gutsy novel.”



Summer Brother is a beautiful, modest novel. As he did with You Have Me to Love, Robben will once again win over a young generation of readers with this book. That in itself is praiseworthy.”



“Jaap Robben has once again written an overwhelming book.”

HMC Dagbladen


“His first novel, You Have Me to Love, was well-received, won prizes, and became a sales success. Summer Brother is a worthy successor and has all the ingredients to follow the same path. Robben knows how to write simply and magnificently―I kept underlining beautiful sentences in the first chapters.”