The Brothers' Lot

The Brothers' Lot

by Kevin Holohan


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"Holohan's ability to write the kind of free-flowing naturalistic dialogue that so potently conveys the anarchic spirit of schoolboy warfare . . . is grounded by a shadow play of macabre references to horrors that ghost around the edges of the narrative, many eerily similar to some of the more infamous real life reports that have emerged in recent years."
The Irish Times

Combining the spirit of Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim with a bawdy evisceration of hypocrisy in old-school Catholic education, The Brothers' Lot is a comic satire that tells the story of the Brothers of Godly Coercion School for Young Boys of Meager Means, a dilapidated Dickensian institution run by an assemblage of eccentric, insane, and often nasty celibate Brothers. The school is in decline and the Brothers hunger for a miracle to move their founder, the Venerable Saorseach O'Rahilly, along the path to Sainthood.

When a possible miracle presents itself, the Brothers fervently seize on it with the help of the ethically pliant Diocesan Investigator, himself hungry for a miracle to boost his career. The school simultaneously comes under threat from strange outside forces. The harder the Brothers try to defend the school, the worse things seem to get. It takes an outsider, Finbar Sullivan, a young student newly arrived at the school, to see that the source of the threat may in fact lie inside the school itself. As the miracle unravels, the Brothers' efforts to preserve it unleash a disastrous chain of events.

Tackling a serious subject from the oblique viewpoint of satire, The Brothers' Lot explores the culture that allowed abuses within church-run institutions in Ireland to go unchecked for decades.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781842435052
Publisher: No Exit Press
Publication date: 06/28/2011
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Kevin Holohan was born in Dublin. He is a graduate of University College Dublin and a veteran of a high school education at the hands of the Christian Brothers in Dublin. His short stories have been published in Cyphers , the Sunday Tribune (Dublin), and, most recently, in Whispers and Shouts. His poetry has been published in Studies, Casablanca, Envoi, and Poetry Ireland. He has reviewed fiction for the Irish Echo in New York. For two years he was reader for the literary department of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. The Brothers' Lot is his first novel. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

Read an Excerpt


By Kevin Holohan

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2011 Kevin Holohan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-936070-91-6


With a start Brother Boland woke. He had dozed off while praying at his cot. His coarse tweed undershirt was soaked in sweat. Around him pressed the deep silence of night.

He had been dreaming. He was flying through the air. He could see the school below him. He could hear a voice in the wind. It came from everywhere and nowhere and was filled with a strange harmony of anger, dust, and the smell of wood.

Brother Boland had started to circle lower over the school and suddenly, all lightness sucked from him, he began to fall toward the roof of the monastery. That was when he woke.

He got up off his knees and stared around the surrounding dark of his cell. Everything was as it had been for his last sixty years as a Brother. The statue of the Infant de Prague stood where it always had on the windowsill. His trousers hung on the chair as usual. His cassock hung on the back of the door as always like some outsized crow carcass. Everything was as it should be, yet not. Brother Boland could not put words on what it was, but there was something. He stepped into his slippers and threw on his cassock.

His slippers made a dead fish sound on the highly polished wooden floor as he tiptoed along. The half-light from the street slid through the windows and cast shadows everywhere. From his perch in the return of the stairs, Venerable Saorseach O'Rahilly, the founder of the Brotherhood, seemed to cower uncertainly back into the shadows, so unlike his stern, disciplinarian, daylight demeanor. Brother Boland nodded and blessed himself as he passed the statue and wisped down the stairs to the ground floor like a tattered black fog with the shakes.

In the monastery kitchen he checked all the doors and windows. Locked tight all of them. He ghosted through the ground-floor Biology lab. All secure there. He paused and leaned a moment against one of the big desks.

Satisfied that all was safe downstairs, Brother Boland twitched back up the stairs as fast as he could. At the top landing he wrestled with the stiff, heavy door. He opened it with a jolt. His hand spidered its way over the musty wood of the inner stairs until it found the light switch. He flicked it. Nothing. The darkness inside seemed to intensify in retaliation against his attempt to dispel it.

The air stank of damp and neglect. The narrow spiral stairs protested under Brother Boland's feet as he cautiously ascended. The air was chill yet oppressive and Brother Boland labored to find enough oxygen to keep going.

The stairs led to another small landing. There Brother Boland paused and peered up into the gloom. He could just about make out the dull sheen of the bell above him. He paused, unsure whether to head up the ladder. He shivered. He brought his breathing to a minimum and listened. In the nearby flats a dog barked the bark of one who lives from dustbins. From closer came an answering howl hoping to reduce its desperate straits by sharing them. Such foolishness! He had not come all the way up here in the middle of the night to listen to dogs barking and speculate on how they found food!

He moved to the corner of the landing and reached down. His hands found the familiar boxy contours. This was his safe haven. This was where he came when the bad things closed in around him. This was his retreat.

Here he kept his tea chest. This was how he had arrived at the school: five months old, in the bottom of a tea chest with whatever clothes he owned thrown over him, left on the steps of the monastery by his unfortunate mother. There had been a note too, or so Brother Boland had been told, but that was long gone, as were the clothes. Yet he still had the tea chest, he still had his roots.

He sat on the edge of the chest and slowly rocked to and fro. He clutched each elbow and held himself close. As he felt his unease begin to subside, he reached out and ran his hands over the surface of the chest. He luxuriated in the familiarity of its shape and lovingly rubbed the rusted edging strips. His talonlike fingers felt love in the rough metal surface. He pressed at the tiny nail heads and sensed the love pulse into him. Brother Boland squeezed his eyes shut and ran his fingers faster over the metal edges of the box.

He emptied his mind. All he was aware of was the persistent tick-ticking of his middle finger on the side of the tea chest. He tried to listen behind that. There it was. There, just on the edge of the silence, was the sound of something different. Not new, but changed, differently evident. Boland shuddered. He felt a white light invade him but would not breathe for fear of putting the silence out of focus. He then felt a jolt as the silence slipped away from him. He tensed and twitched and with one final spasm he snapped into catatonic rigidity, unmoving as the walls around him.

When he woke the crows cawed harshly in the trees. The early trucks hauling toward the docks ground their gears like prophets' teeth. Dogs barked their secret plans for the new day and softly the blinds and curtains of the early risers were drawn to admit the new dawn. In the early pubs, the dockers and the bona fides drank in uneasy alliance, all of them, either by choice or necessity, on a different timetable to the rest of the city. The tide shrugged out of the Liffey bringing in a cacophony of gulls to pick at the sludge in its shallows.

Brother Boland carefully placed his tea chest back in its corner and ran his hands lovingly over its surface. Whatever had haunted his night was gone. He glanced at his watch. He had two minutes to get to the bottom of the stairs and ring the bell for morning mass. He removed his slippers and tiptoed silently down the stairs.


Excerpted from THE BROTHERS' LOT by Kevin Holohan Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Holohan. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The mix of dire experiences that goes into the education dished out at the Brothers of Godly Coercion School for Young Boys of Meager Means adds up to a mordantly funny debut from Dublin native Holohan."
Publishers Weekly

"Taking dead aim at the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and the atmosphere of repression that allowed abuse to flourish, this first novel uses satire to stinging effect . . . Terribly bleak and terribly funny, this skillful debut pays tribute to the irrepressible spirit of all the rebellious young boys who would not give in to authoritarian rule."

"[Holohan] possesses his own distinct voice. Especially useful as therapy for recovering Catholics or to tweak apologists of the church, this impressive debut is highly recommended."
Library Journal

"A witty, brilliant, devastating expression of outrage. . . this novel is so subtly imagined, so elegantly structured, written in such hilarious prose but with such horrifying details, that what it offers is an overpowering, visionary judgement of a society."
Times Literary Supplement

"The book is funny, fast-paced with one crisis after another, but always pulls at the heartstrings."
Brooklyn Rail

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