Rudnick’s debut memoir examines her complicated relationship with her developmentally disabled sibling as well as her own tumultuous path to self-acceptance and fulfillment.
The author was born in New York City in 1944 to German immigrant parents, and her sister, Edna Jane Wile, was born a year later. As young children, the girls were inseparable, but when they entered school, it became increasingly apparent that Edna was lagging behind the other kids. She could read, but she couldn’t comprehend abstract concepts; she was mobile, but she was unable to walk with a normal gait; and she didn’t have any friends. The author, however, excelled in school and had an active social life. Increasingly, she felt guilty about leaving Edna behind; she saw her sister as a visual manifestation of her family’s differentness, she says, which embarrassed her and made her angry and confused. When Edna was 14, the girls’ mother found a camp/residential school in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which would cater to her special needs. “Except for vacations, we would never live together again,” Rudnick writes. The author soon discovered that she had her own, hidden disability—she’d been born without a uterus and with an incomplete vaginal canal. It was a devastating blow, she says, that affected the rest of her life. Rudnick is a talented writer, often displaying a keen ability to capture emotional intensity through concise prose. For example, she reveals at the memoir’s outset that “Edna was my most treasured companion” and “almost every night I crawled into her bed. With her soft skin, she was so cuddly, so squeezable. I felt safe when I was close to her.” As a result, readers are likely to be unsurprised that Rudnick eventually became a practicing psychotherapist. That said, the passages describing the author’s four marriages and three divorces sound clinically detached by contrast.
An intriguing and informative look at the challenges of disability.