“The best book on sisters, very important and beautifully written.”—Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice
This “substantial contribution to the literature on sibling relationships” (Library Journal) explores the intricacy, friction, and love in bonds between sisters. Relationships between women are often freighted with a rocky mix of emotions—devotion and disregard, affection and loathing, admiration and envy—leading to anguish and confusion on the playground, in the home, and in the boardroom. Negotiating her layered feelings toward a sister shapes a woman’s psychology as forcefully as do her relationships with her parents. Drawing on compelling interviews and new research, Terri Apter considers the many aspects of the sister relationship from birth through adulthood. The need to fight to differentiate oneself from a sister, as well the protectiveness one feels for that same person, is explained by reference to extensive psychological and biological evidence.
Sisterly love, Apter (The Myth of Maturity ) shows, isn't always pure: to differentiate herself from her older sister Sam, teenager Gina manipulated Sam into gaining weight; Kate's three sisters put aside jealousies and power plays to rally around her after she was raped; and Dorri wrongly accused her lesbian sister, Annette, of having an affair with her husband because a teenage Annette used to steal Dorri's boyfriends. This generic study of the complex ties that bind sisters teaches us that a sister's death is one of the most difficult losses to overcome; women's friendships often mirror the sister bond in both pleasure and pain; elderly sisters provide each other with crucial psychological succor; adult women are passionately invested in their own versions of family stories; and female empathy, when viewed through the sister knot, is revealed as a complicated skill "used for control and denigration as often as for care and protection." Throughout, British psychologist Apter's stodgy prose is brightened by excerpts from interviews she conducted with 76 British and American sisters from 37 families; while her analyses are perceptive, she's also treading on familiar territory without the creativity displayed by a Deborah Tannen or Bruno Bettelheim.