cover image The Perfect Other: A Memoir of My Sister

The Perfect Other: A Memoir of My Sister

Kyleigh Leddy. Mariner, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-358-46934-6

Leddy debuts with a heartrending account of her older sister’s battle with mental illness. During their childhood in Philadelphia in the 1990s, Leddy saw her sister, Kait, “through the hero-worship lens of a little sister” as an arbiter of all things cool and her unquestioning protector. But as Kait reached adolescence, her joyful personality turned dark and her behavior increasingly frightening—such as one night when she hit their mother in the face. “Kait’s illness spread in this darkness the way all creeping matter prospers only in the dampest, most hidden places,” Leddy recounts, detailing how, in the years she came of age, her sister, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, “came into madness.” Kait’s behavior eventually escalated, leading to stints in psychiatric hospitals, before she disappeared from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in January 2014 (an apparent suicide, though her body hasn’t been found). Gutting in its intensity, Leddy’s narrative grapples with the unearned guilt she still carries regarding Kait’s difficult life, but it also celebrates the “exuberantly bright” light her “confident and hilarious” sister once shined upon the people around her. By refusing to allow this to become a story of utter despair, Leddy offers a humanist portrait of the nuances of loving someone with a mental illness. This one isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort. (Mar.)