BROTHERS AND SISTERS: How They Shape Our Lives by Jane Mersky Leder

BROTHERS AND SISTERS: How They Shape Our Lives

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A brother's suicide started Leder (Dead Serious, YA, 1987) pondering the role siblings play in defining one another's lives, but an apparent dearth of scientific research and the author's own lack of expertise have left her with few insights and fewer facts to offer. On his 30th birthday, Leder's younger brother shot himself with a rifle and died. At the funeral, Leder and her remaining siblings were too caught up in their own grief and guilt to reach out to one another, and Leder found herself wondering what role these now-distant people had played in her life, and how her brother's death would affect her. Hence this book--a collection of second-source research findings and personal anecdotes (drawn from Leder's 125 brief interviews of brothers and sisters)--which succeeds more as apparent therapy for the author than as a source of insight and information. Claiming that Freud virtually ignored the intersibling relationship except when it involved the parents; that Walter Toman's more recent birth-order ""portraits"" too closely resemble astrology; and that psychology researchers shy away from sibling research partly because sibling configurations include so many complex variables, Leder, who is herself no expert, is left providing little more than anecdote after anecdote (e.g., of her successful reunion with her younger sister, of two elderly siblings' attempt to re-bond despite a jealous spouse, of a man's painful memories of sexual abuse at the hands of his older sister, etc.). Her conclusions, moreover, are predictable: siblings close in age usually affect each other most; opposite-sex siblings help create adult expectations of love and marriage; siblings tend to grow apart as young adults, then reunite when old age brings a need for a shared sense of the past. Leder has raised an interesting issue, but fails to explore it with true originality or rigor.

Pub Date: Dec. 18th, 1991
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's