Sister Mother Husband Dog: (Etc.)
In this delightful book of glimpses into the twisted and brilliant mind of Delia Ephron, the author leads us into her world. In 15 beautifully written vignettes, we are taken for a wonderful ride through her childhood, her relationships with her family, her fascination with the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, her frustrations with her hair, her almost phobic attitude about having her picture taken without makeup, her puzzlement over remote controls and the world of technology, her strong bond to her famous sister, Nora, and, among many other things, the glory of pastries from the best bakeries.
Delia begins her book with a chapter about her late sister. Readers expecting something terribly morbid will be surprised, as she offers a string of stories about the times they shared, both good and bad. This is how she describes losing Nora: “It’s a whole new world in an awful and confusing way. A city in which the street signs are missing.”
"Reading Delia Ephron is like having a good friend sitting across from you as you drink wine and rattle on about your lives.... This is one of those books you put down and then go back to time and again, and one you will want to give to friends and family."
Delia celebrates their relationship, their collaborations and the flow of unspoken thoughts between them: "Nora always said that we shared half a brain." Through the awfulness of Nora’s chemotherapy, the hospital visits and her eventual death, Delia looks back in celebration of this remarkable woman’s life. She talks about Nora’s generosity, power, talent and ruthlessness as a writer, humor and sharp insights. She says losing her was like losing an arm, and the need to write/talk about their relationship seems to drive her on. She compares her life now to that of her dog, Honey, saying that dogs just get on with things, and she must do the same. She has learned to be brave because Nora’s death was, in a strange way, a path for her to be brave: “…her last gift to me. Lopsided gift-giving if ever there was.”
The remaining chapters are filled with Delia’s marvelous wit and fun. There are thoughts on being “Jewish enough.” Should she join the JBC, “Jewish Book Council”? She is, after all, an author who “happens” to be Jewish. Her family celebrates Christmas with a tree, carols and gift exchanges, so she views all this with a philosophical attitude. She talks about the unexpected success of her debut book, THE ADVENTUROUS CROCHETER, as her first serious step into writing --- despite her first husband's admonishments that he did not want her to become a “successful writer.” With her career-oriented mother’s words echoing through her head, she pushes herself into the world of writing as did, apparently, all of her sisters. Her father’s great quote of “Write that line down!” spurs her on as she and Nora begin collaborating, achieving great success in such movies as You’ve Got Mail, Michael and This is My Life. Delia achieves much acclaim for her own writing, but working with her sister is one of her proudest achievements.
Reading Delia Ephron is like having a good friend sitting across from you as you drink wine and rattle on about your lives. Whether she is writing about her pet dog, her brilliant but troubled alcoholic parents, her struggles with her writing, her practical husband, her love of movies, or her memories of Nora, she is warm and real. The closing chapter is poignant, with a dream she shares about her sister, whose spirit will always be with her. This is one of those books you put down and then go back to time and again, and one you will want to give to friends and family.
Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on October 4, 2013