brother. do. you. love. me.

A text message changes the lives of two British-born brothers in the inspirational, life-affirming brother. do. you. love. me., a beautifully written memoir by Manni Coe and illustrated by his brother, Reuben Coe, who has Down syndrome.

At the height of the Covid pandemic, 40-something Manni--one of four brothers and a travel guide working in Spain and living with his life partner--received a distressing five-word text from his 38-year-old brother Reuben: "brother. do. you. love. me." Reuben, learning disabled and living in a British care home, had become severely depressed and diminished. He'd stopped eating and had lost weight. Manni interpreted the text as a cry for help. He responded by renting a cottage in the English countryside and inviting Reuben to live with him, determined to nurse him back to health and restore his quality of life.

Initially, Reuben was so withdrawn and nonverbal that he would communicate only via drawings--felt-tip illustrations and poems that conveyed his passions for contemporary songs, movies, and the theater. These fun imaginings become glowing accompaniments to a tenderly drawn narrative that gracefully probes issues of isolation and loneliness; sacrifice and trust; and the loving, enduring bonds of memory and family.

Covid proved sad and challenging for many. But through the experiences of the Coe brothers--how they reconnected and deepened their relationship, sharing 26 weeks of their lives together--readers will bask in silver linings that brought happy endings to the brothers' hard times. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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