4 out of 5 stars
Covid disrupted life for millions of people around the world. Those that were in care homes were affected in particular, not only did they have greater restrictions, but to keep them safe family members were not permitted to visit at all. Reuben Coe was one of those in a home where they were supposedly providing specialist care for his Downs Syndrome. But they weren’t. For months he had been non-verbal and had become withdrawn from the other residents. He was at his lowest ebb when he decided to send his elder brother a text message:
brother. do. you. love. me.
As Manni read this message he knew that he had to be there for Reuben. He made the decision to leave his home and partner in Spain and travel back to the UK to withdraw his younger from the care home that he was in. It was then he realised just how much he had closed himself off from all social contact. He moved him into a cottage deep in the Dorset countryside.
The process of drawing Reuben out would be a long and painful one. But a routine of walking a short distance each day and allowing him the time that he needed to realise that he was in an environment where he was loved started to work. Every day Ruben would take his favourite felt tip pens and some paper and begin to draw pictures of things that still had meaning for him.
As the darker nights of winter ebb away, Reuben recovers in his own time. Him and Manni build their relationship as friends and brothers once again. But Manni has decisions to make that mean change once again for Reuben and he has to draw on the love and support of his partner, family and friends to help him make the right decision for Reuben.
Why are we always striving to make Reuben more normal? Shouldn’t we be encouraging him to be himself?
This is a genuinely heartwarming story of one brother doing everything in his capacity to look after another brother. He writes about how he brings his brother back from the self-consumed shell he had become and there is no tempering of his feelings or emotions. The bond that they once had takes time to rekindle, but it is there and it needs time to be strong once again. I liked this book because it shows what can be achieved should we want to build relationships and how that caring for someone is good for both. Even though this is a book that I think Manni wrote most of, he couldn’t have written it without Reuben and the inclusion of his bright and bold drawings adds to this. If you want a feel-good memoir then this is as good a place as any to start.