Only children don’t have to share bedrooms, toys, or the backseat of a car. They don’t have to share allowances, inheritances, or their parents’ attention. But when they get into trouble, they can’t just blame their imaginary friends. In Only Child, twenty-one acclaimed writers tell the truth about life without siblings—the bliss of solitude, the ache of loneliness, and everything in between.In this unprecedented collection, writers like Judith Thurman, Kathryn Harrison, John Hodgman, and Peter Ho Davies reflect on the single, transforming episode that defined each of them as an only child. For some it came while lurking around the edges of a friend’s boisterous family, longing to be part of the chaos. For others, it came in sterile hospital halls, while single-handedly caring for a parent with cancer. They write about the parents who raised them, from the devoted to the dismissive. They describe what it’s like to be an only child of divorce, an only because of the death of a sibling, an only who reveled in it or an only who didn’t. In candid, poignant, and often hilarious essays, these authors—including the children of Erica Jong, Alice Walker, and Phyllis Rose—explore a lifetime of onliness. As adults searching for partners, they are faced with the unique challenge of trying to turn a longtime trio into a quartet. In deciding whether to give junior a sib, they weigh the benefits of producing the friend they never had against the fear that they will not know how to divide their love and attention among multiples. As they watch their parents age, they come face-to-face with the onus of being their family’s sole historian.Whether you’re an only child curious about how your experiences compare to others’, the partner or spouse of an only, a parent pondering whether to stop at one, or someone with siblings who’s always wondered how the other half lives, Only Child offers a look behind the scenes and into the hearts of twenty-one smart and sensitive writers as they reveal the truth about growing up—and being a grown-up—solo.
Kathryn Harris (The Kiss), John Hodgman (The Areas of My Expertise) and the New Yorker's Janice Thurman (Isak Dinesen) are just three of the noteworthy writers who contributed to this collection of essays on growing up sans siblings. Editors Siegel and Uviller have gathered the 20 original pieces into general themes: childhood, family relationships, the desire-or lack thereof-for a sibling and the unique joys and perils of being an adult "only." The gems of this volume are the authors who trade analysis for storytelling, such as magician and author Teller's life-affirming "New Year's Eve 1997," Peter Terzian's "Postcards to Myself," Rebecca Walker's "Blood of my Blood" and Alysia Abbott's "A Pair of Onlies." Though other entries are weighed down by too much therapy-speak, some provide resonant psychological insight, as in Sara Reistad-Long's: "Having Mom and Dad waiting in the wings had made me appear enviably confident, but I suspect that when my supporting cast takes its final bow, I'll stumble more than most." Though the book's topic proves too narrow to sustain its nearly 300 pages-as Thomas Beller notes, it's "hard to know how to separate the only from the childhood"-many only children, as well as those who sometimes wish they were, will find much to appreciate in this volume.