Book Review: “Mom Still Likes You Best”

   Posted by: Faith   in Rye Thoughts

Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business of Siblings – Jane Isay

Promo material for Mom Still Likes You Best suggests that the book is a “must-read” for anyone blessed/cursed with a sibling. However, I might suggest that the book is more appropriate for someone who’s somewhat bored and possibly suffering from a bit of insomnia.

Not that there isn’t some interesting material in this book… no, the title tells us exactly what to expect – stories about siblings and their “unfinished business” with each other into adulthood – and there are more than enough anecdotes to satisfy the curious. Strong sibling bonds, tenuous ones, bonds that fail… Isay asserts that the foundation of sibling relationships happens when we’re very young, and we carry this over into adulthood, making it very difficult to change our perception of our siblings unless we consciously make an effort to do so.

An interesting theory. But is it true? Unfortunately, we’ll never know… because that’s where the theorizing ends. Instead, Isay pads the book full of anecdote after anecdote, barely pausing for a breath before diving into the next example. The transitions are clunky, and though the sentence at the end of each anecdote is supposed to set up the one that follows (then we get the title of the next segment, and then the next segment), instead it reads like the first paragraph in each new section has been hacked apart. That’s not a transition, that’s just poor organization.

Since the book is 98% anecdotal, this also means that we have a lot of names throughout the book. I think Isay tried to help people keep things straight by frequently not naming people (referring instead to them as “her brother” or “his younger sister”), but when you’re giving an anecdote where there are three younger siblings and you talk about them all and don’t name them, it can get pretty gosh dang confusing. I don’t know how many times I had to re-read sections to figure out who was doing what to whom, and this often made me put the book down in frustration.

That’s not simplifying things, dear author. That’s just making it more difficult for the reader to follow the logical sequence within each story.

That said, I think it’s true that people with siblings will probably see themselves reflected somewhere in this book, and it really is horrifying to realize what some people do to their brothers and sisters. However, if you want more than a list of anecdotes — such as, understanding why people act this way, or what triggers the behavior, or whether it’s part of a pattern, or psychological, or anything at all — you won’t find it here.

And that was what I found most disappointing of all. There wasn’t anything to tie it all together, so it just read like a bunch of stories about people we don’t know. Would I pay $28.95 for this book, the suggested cover price for the hardcover? Absolutely not. I also wouldn’t buy it for someone else at that price (plus, the thing is less than 200 pages to boot).

It might make for interesting reading if you see it at the library and have nothing else going on. Then again, it might just frustrate you. And hey, if you don’t like your siblings very much, it could even make the perfect birthday gift…

I received a complimentary ARC version of this book from the publisher.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 at 10:46 pm and is filed under Rye Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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