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The Brothers’ Lot


A hilarious and satirical debut novel exploring religious hypocrisy in an Irish secondary school.

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What people are saying…

Semifinalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award (2012).

“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 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 (starred review)

“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.”
Irish Times

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

The Brothers’ Lot takes on serious subject matter—the grim aftermath of World War II, the abuse of children by priests—with biting satire that lends comic relief to an otherwise dark novel.”
The Daily Beast, Book Beast

“Upon this ethical foundation for an entertaining tale, Holohan follows a satirical tradition which questions authority, undermines cliche, and upends the social order. Reading The Brother’s Lot, I thought not only of Flann O’Brien and Kafka but of another Dubliner, Jonathan Swift.”

“Kevin Holohan’s strange yet disconcertingly recognizable world has echoes of Flann O’Brien’s and Monty Python’s, but there is rage as well as absurdist comedy. The Brothers’ Lot is a memorable, skillfully wrought, and evocative satire of an Ireland that has collapsed under the weight of its contradictions.”
—Joseph O’Connor, author of Star of the Sea

“Kevin Holohan’s wickedly funny debut novel, set in a rundown Dublin religious school where the spirits are low but the Gaelic pride runs high, will make you laugh almost as much as it makes you weep, for beyond their almost comical incompetence and a thin veneer of piety the Brothers who run the place are sad, flawed men, whose weaknesses range from sadism to depravity. They educate by cudgel and dole out discipline with a leather strap, while protagonist Finbar Sullivan and the other long-suffering students bear it all with the kind of wise-cracking cynicism, irreverence, and pranks that one would expect at that age.”
Preston L. Allen, author of Jesus Boy

“Kevin Holohan takes us to a harrowing place. This vivid book aims to break your heart while it makes you catch your breath. It is powerful and is not afraid of the dark.”
—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway

The Brothers’ Lot is a screamingly funny indictment of the culture of repression and abuse that has plagued Ireland for generations, but it is much more than that. It is a brilliantly told tale, compassionate and brutal. Most important, it celebrates the spirit of reckless bravery and rebellion, the spirit that draws back the curtain on iconic institutions to reveal the frailty of an ecclesiastical house of cards.”
Tim McLoughlin, author of Heart of the Old Country


Author Kevin Holohan was featured as the May 22, 2014 “Picture of the Day” in PW Daily!

Read “Team Players in the New New Economy” by Kevin Holohan, part of Akashic’s celebration of Short Story Month 2013.

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. The novel inhabits a space where Angela’s Ashes meets the work of Flann O’Brien and Mervyn Peake, while providing a look at a regrettable era that still haunts many countries across the globe.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Published: 3/22/11
  • IBSN: 9781936070916
  • e-IBSN: 9781617750205


KEVIN HOLOHAN’s debut novel was the critically acclaimed The Brothers’ Lot, which the Times Literary Supplement called “a witty, brilliant, devastating expression of outrage.” Holohan’s stories and essays have appeared in the Sunday Tribune, Whispers and Shouts, the Irish Echo, and Writing.ie. He has performed the works of Beckett, Joyce, and others at the Irish Arts Center, An Beal Bocht Cafe, and Dixon Place. A native of Dublin, Holohan now lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

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