The story of two brothers and their extraordinary journey of resilience and repair.
“brother. do. you. love. me. is a text message Reuben sent me when he was at his very lowest.
This book is my love story to let him know just how much I do.”
“How much energy will we both burn to keep loving? I will have to be more than his brother. I will have to be his carer, his parent, his friend, his interpreter in a world that doesn’t want to understand him.”
brother. do. you. love. me tells the story of Reuben and Manni; brothers separated by 10 years and little else. Reuben was born with Down’s syndrome and he changed our family.
The structure is a simple to and fro between present and past, zigzagging between weeks of shielded isolation and chapters from Reuben’s early years through to adulthood. It charters our personal plight of perseverance in the bleak winter of lockdown. We want this book to shine with hope as well as being informative about the condition of Down’s Syndrome.
Reuben lived with me in Spain for seven sun-filled, happy years until the day of his breakdown. This story charters the dark waters of his slow fall into a non-verbal depression which found him in a home for specialized care in Dorset. Lockdown ensued and Reuben was cut off from everything he had ever known and loved. He sat on his bed for three months staring out of his ground floor bedroom window, placing his hand on the window pane in an attempt to feel connected.
As another national lockdown loomed, I travelled from Spain and rescued him from further isolation. We shielded in a farm cottage just outside the Jurassic coastal village of Burton Bradstock. During the ensuing 21 weeks, we learnt afresh that the bond of brotherhood and the perseverance of love can battle all ills.
The Dorset grey did little to comfort my mood. For several weeks, I feared I might have lost my youngest brother to the invisible enemy of depression. In trying to save him, I feared I might lose myself. Cut off from family and friends, we devised a new future for ourselves based on five pillars; good food, good sleep, exercise, fresh air and love.
With candles, music, good food, cuddles and walks with our eyes fixed on the horizon, we began to crawl out of the hole and as spring began to push its green shoots through the icy grip of winter, something happened. We began to laugh again. We began to smile and dance.
brother. do. you. love. me. is a text message Reuben sent me when he was at his very lowest. This book is my love story to let him know just how much I do.
Each evening, Reuben drew me a picture with the words “Love you brother Sleep Well” written underneath. I have kept them all safe. When Reuben became non-verbal, his only communication was through drawings and the written word. The images are powerful. His images hinge the manuscript into our shared experience.
Manni Coe grew up in Yorkshire and Berkshire. He studied Latin American history & culture at Edinburgh University which took him on adventures in South America before he finally settled in Andalucia, Spain. He now lives between Dorset and a tiny town called Archidona. He is the second of four brothers. He works as a private guide in Spain and around the world. brother. do. you. love. me is his first book.
Reuben Coe grew up in Berkshire and is the youngest of four brothers. He completed a B-tech in Drama before settling into life in a care home in Newbury. For seven sun-filled years, he lived in Spain but now Reuben lives in North Dorset. He has a passion for drawing. His art has been used by both Norwich and St Paul’s Cathedral and his range of Christmas cards helped raise funds for the NHS during the pandemic. This is the first time his illustrations have appeared in a book.
I gather up his Darth Vader suitcase and his Union Jack holdall from the boot—cow shit has already splattered the car’s paintwork. I stand and wait for him to get out. He takes an age to readjust his hat and put his Tommy Hilfiger day bag and his Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat tote bag over his shoulder—there was such fire in his eyes when we bought it after the show, spilling out into the crowds on Argyll Street.
He turns and I lean forward to help him out of the car, but he pauses to check that he has his paintbrush (in his right pocket) and his broken glasses (left pocket) before he puts his feet on the gravel drive. He knows this place—an old agricultural worker’s cottage, semi-detached, that used to be part of the farm. I don’t hurry him. He walks to the door as if he never wants to get there.
“Welcome back to The Shire, Frodo,” I say before we get to the threshold. “Shoes off please.”
Publication Date: 4th October 2022
Imprint: Little Toller
Editor: Adrian Cooper
Photography: Eddy Pearce and Manni Coe
Music: Laura Andres
Design: Lawson Design
“Part of the emotional power of brother. do. you. love. me. is that it transports the reader into this magical space. And that is Reuben’s gift.
While this is a book about how we take care of each other in any context, it also has something profound to communicate about those made vulnerable by society’s tendency to view such gifts as limitations.
In answer to my question about what he’d like us to remember after reading his book, Reuben, a man with the heart and courage of the lions he so loves to draw, writes:
The Bookseller, July 2022 | Caroline Sanderson
Manni and Reuben will be touring bookshops and festivals around the UK, in Red – their tour van.
15th October 2022 – Cheltenham Literary Festival
20th October 2022 – Chipping Norton Literary Festival
21st October 2022 – Yellow Lighted, Three Stories, Stroud
26th October 2022 – Blackwells, Oxford
27th October 2022 – The Yard, Alresford
4th November 2022 – The Book Hive, Dragon Hall, Norwich
6th November 2022 – Stroud Book Festival
8th November 2022 – Bridport Literary Festival
10th November 2022 – Waterstones, Dorchester
11th November 2022 – Waterstones, Salisbury
16th November 2022 – Waterstones, Liverpool
18th November 2022 – Waterstones, Leeds
20th November 2022 – Kendal Mountain Festival
24th November 2022 – Bookish, Crickhowell
25th November 2022 – Hay Winter Weekend
“The valley is gripped by ice, most days it barely thaws before dark. I search the sky for sun spaces, ever hopeful, but all January has offered so far is a blanket of cloud.
Up the late a mains water pipe must have burst because there’s a permanent tentacle of ice reaching downhill towards the cottage.”