William Saroyan once commented, "It is necessary to remember and necessary to forget, but it is better for a writer to remember." With the release of a vivid memoir of her family life, author Judy Goldman shows she is a writer who remembers—in particular, the sometimes harsh, sometimes loving, relationship between herself and her older sister.
In her book, Losing My Sister, the value of the story is in the telling (in bits and pieces) of a profound closeness the sisters enjoyed, as well as what appears at times to be a deep indifference to the other person's needs. Three years younger than her sister, Brenda, Goldman relates, "Mother never stopped coddling me. Brenda had Daddy. I had Mother. In my eyes, Mother was the prize, the one who was there all the time, the expert at coddling."
When Goldman believes she has breast cancer, her first thought is to see her sister, unaware that Brenda has also been found to have a suspicious lump. Goldman relates her reaction, "Next morning, I call two people: My doctor, and my sister...She's practical, clearheaded...knows what to do...But she just had a routine mammogram...We both wait for the pathology reports. Mine is benign. Hers, malignant." Following surgery, Brenda rejects breast reconstruction. They both move on with their lives.
Following this introduction to the family, Goldman's narrative shifts to more than a few decades of stories about her mother, grandmother, the aunts, and her sister, which she dubs, "the sister stories." We hear about the girls' publication of their own neighborhood newspaper (something some readers can relate to) as well as creating the proverbial backyard playhouse.
There are episodes where the sisters hardly speak, and they seem to disagree on many topics including the raising of their children. Still, there is no stopping them when serious issues appear. They struggle to help treat their mother's Alzheimer's disease, followed later by their father's battle with colon cancer, then lung cancer, then bone cancer.
When Goldman learns her sister's cancer is beyond curable and she will begin Hospice care, she writes, "It's staggering. Staggering how much I love her, how much she loves me. Staggering how charged the two of us can be with love, anger, hope...Well, what's staggering is that I'm going to lose her. There is no measure in the universe for what it means to lose a sister."
Losing My Sister is a tribute from one sister to another—a sorrowful, but proud grieving.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Judy Goldman is the author of two novels, Early Leaving and The Slow Way Back, plus two poetry collections. Her work has been published in numerous literary journals. She lives with her husband in Charlotte, North Carolina. To read an excerpt, visit her website.
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