Sister Mother Husband Dog: (etc.)


“Every choice makes some things in life more possible and some things less — remember upsides and downsides?”

I was driving into work the day when I heard that Nora Ephron had passed away. I heard the report on Morning Edition just as I was driving over the Constitution Bridge in Lock Haven. The sunlight was golden and I hope that her loved ones, though in a stage of mourning, breathed a sigh of relief that Norawas no longer in pain. I was familiar with Ephron from the excerpts of her books that I read while shelving and some articles. It wouldn’t be until this past year that I would watch Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally. After Nora’s passing, I spent my meal breaks from the box office away reading her books in a park in Mill Hall. I would lay down on a bench and dive into Nora’s commentary about journalism, show business, and life, in general. Somehow I found away to stopped reading and return to the box office after each break.

Delia Ephron’s style is similar to her older sisters, but in some way more raw and honest. At least with Sister Mother Husband Dog: (etc.) Delia is honest with her sister’s passing and her own feelings of grief and death. This collections of essays focuses on the time since Nora’s death, and includes stories about their mother and father’s as well. Each story takes a different tone and reflects her relationship with the individual, Nora’s being the most poignant; not because of her fame, but their relationship. To lose a sibling can be like losing a limb. They were with each other through their parents’ tumultuous relationship and their own tumultuous marriages and adulthoods. With reading this, I reflected on my relationships with my younger sisters and how much life we still all have to live. Delia wrote:

“W.H. Auden, who understands everything about the human condition, begins a poem about the loss of his lover with “Stop all the clocks.” Yes, stop them for the people I love. For my sister. It would be the decent thing to do. But the clocks keep ticking, insulting our grief, forcing us into new realities, cheering us up, making us laugh, taunting us with the possibility of forgetting, zapping us with the pain of remembering.”

This quote struck me because I can’t fathom a life without either of my sisters (my only-childness lasted for the approx. 14 months between my older younger sister and I), or any of my loved ones, but life will go on and we need to be considerate of balancing our own grief with living in the new face of that reality. With that sentiment, I enjoyed this excerpt as well: “Now it’s fall and Honey no longer chews her paw. The doctor cured her. Sun Golds, the most perfect tomatoes in the world, are finished for the season and no longer for sale in the Union Square Greenmarket. Pumpkins are everywhere. It’s cool out. I’m wearing my leather jacket.” Life goes on.

Delia balances the anchor stories with essays of commentary about ordering presents online, her dogs, and Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean in” — which was perhaps my favorite essay of the book. She starts the essay with identifying her favorite bakeries and pastries, but manages to deftly navigate into commentary about Sandberg’s definition of “having it all.” She writes: “To me, having it all — if one wants to define it at all– is the magical time when what you want and what you have match up”, reminding readers that it is up to us to define how we want to be happy and that no one else can unless we let them. This essay a testament to Delia’s writing; her way of starting with the mundane or self-important, then hooking with fresh thoughts on something much bigger than a chocolate chip cookies. Other must-read excerpts are Your Order Has Been Shipped and Why I Can’t Write About My Mother.

I was attracted to Delia’s novel from her sister’s reputation, but stayed for the writer’s own narrative style. Sister Mother Husband Dog: (etc.) is themed with death, but serves as a reminder to live ours lives as we want to.  I will be laying down on more park benches to work through Delia’s bibliography as soon as the weather warms up.

Thumbs: 2 out of 2

Published by ccharle2

A digital services librarian. When I am not reading, I can be found running or counting bats.

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