A beautifully written memoir maps a woman's search for the truth about her beloved sister's life--and her mysterious death.
Novelist Sheila Kohler's first book of nonfiction, Once We Were Sisters, is an achingly beautiful memoir. The story probes Kohler's relationship with her sister, Maxine--two years older--and the bond they shared in life and in death. When Maxine was 39 years old, the devoted wife and mother of six was killed in a mysterious car crash that Kohler strongly believes was intentional. The driver of the car was Maxine's abusive husband--a successful and renowned heart surgeon with a relentless dark side. He survived the crash.
Telling the story more than 35 years later, Kohler (The Bay of Foxes) seeks to find answers, identify the forces that precipitated Maxine's death and untangle her sister's life from her own. Despite their contrasting personalities, the two were close during a privileged upbringing in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. They studied at exclusive boarding schools and later traveled abroad together. The death of their father in their youth, and a mother who frequently departed into her own alcohol-infused world, marked their lives, and both sisters married philandering husbands.
Kohler's search for literal and emotional truths, her abiding love for her sister--along with guilt and regret--propel this succinct narrative. Maxine's shattering death has deeply permeated and haunted every aspect of Kohler's life, especially her writing. Thankfully, the years have finally granted this gifted fiction writer the perspective and liberation to share her own story.
Penguin, $16.00 Paper, 9780143129295, 256 pages
Publication Date: January 17, 2017