Brother & Sister: A Memoir

Diane Keaton. Knopf, $25.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-451-49450-4
Actor Keaton (Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty) focuses on her complex relationship with her mentally ill younger brother in this resonant and melancholy family memoir. Keaton admits that she saw her brother, Randy, as a burden when they were kids growing up in Southern California: “He was a nuisance, a scaredy-cat, and a crybaby.” As she got older, “he became an absent presence. I avoided him as my life got busier while his got smaller and more difficult.” Throughout, Keaton shares details of her career (filmmakers Woody Allen and Nancy Meyers, among others, get mentions), but the focus is on Randy, an alcoholic plagued by sadomasochistic fantasies about women, and whose escalating instability—vividly described here (in a letter to Keaton, Randy writes, “When I thought about sex it was always with a knife”)—affected Keaton, her parents, and her two sisters. The author, who became “the family documentarian” after her mother’s death in 2008, utilizes family letters and journals to enhance the narrative, which follows Randy as he unravels and turns into a “Boo Radley character.” Keaton talks about the complexities of loving a brother she never quite knew; of watching him become consumed by alcohol, then falling into the grip of dementia “in the process of dying”; and of wishing she had done more to help him (“I want to have another chance at being a better sister”). This slim but weighty book stands as a haunting meditation on mortality, sibling love, mental illness, and regret. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/22/2019
Release date: 02/04/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-451-49451-1
Paperback - 460 pages - 978-0-593-17158-5
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