Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation

Fern Schumer Chapman. Viking, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-56169-9
Journalist Chapman (Motherland) shares a deeply moving account of a decades-long rift with her only brother and how they found a path to resolution. While parental estrangement is more openly talked about, she writes, “I realized early on the disturbing nature of how others perceive a sibling rupture.” The split with her brother, Scott, happened gradually, starting in her 20s. “Hurt piled on hurt, slowly building a hard shell of separation” that kept them from speaking for 40 years, until a call from their mother brought them back together. In reconnecting, she and Scott reckoned with the shared childhood trauma caused by their distant parents. Shocked at how little literature there was on the subject of sibling reconciliation, Chapman decided to compile her own research. To that end, she weaves in interviews with psychologists and firsthand accounts from other estranged siblings, and the story becomes a hybrid of memoir and an illuminating guide to navigating estrangement. Chapman helps readers decide whether a relationship is worth saving, and how to open up communication and reestablish trust; she also tackles issues surrounding addiction, social media, and holidays. The author’s vulnerability turns what could have been a clinical look at family dysfunction into a sensitive, compassionate narrative. Even cynics will find hope in this story of redemption. Agent: Marian Young. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 04/06/2021
Release date: 04/06/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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