Book Review: Sister Mother Husband Dog etc. by Deila Ephron

sistermotherhusbanddogTitle: Sister Mother Husband Dog etc.
Author: Delia Ephron
Genre: Nonfiction, essays
Publisher: Plume
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Number of pages: 221
First line: Two weeks after my sister died, I took my dog to the doggie dermatologist.

Goodreads blurb: In Sister Mother Husband Dog, Delia Ephron brings her trademark wit and effervescent prose to a series of autobiographical essays about life, love, sisterhood, movies, and family. In “Losing Nora,” she deftly captures the rivalry, mutual respect, and intimacy that made up her relationship with her older sister and frequent writing companion. “Blame It on the Movies” is Ephron’s wry and romantic essay about surviving her disastrous twenties, becoming a writer, and finding a storybook ending. “Bakeries” is both a lighthearted tour through her favorite downtown patisseries and a thoughtful, deeply felt reflection on the dilemma of having it all. From keen observations on modern living, the joy of girlfriends, and best-friendship, to a consideration of the magical madness and miracle of dogs, to haunting recollections of life with her famed screenwriter mother and growing up the child of alcoholics, Ephron’s eloquent style and voice illuminate every page of this superb and singular work.

I want Delia Ephron to be my friend. She is witty and wise, and as one of four sisters, I can completely relate to her. Delia is one of the lesser-known Ephron sisters, and while she worked with her more-famous sister Nora on hit films like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, her name is not nearly as recognizable. I read – and enjoyed – her novel The Lion Is In last year (my review) and hoped I would enjoy her nonfiction as well. After reading through this delightful, funny, and personal collection of essays, I have a bit of a girl-crush on Ms. Ephron.

As the less-pretty and less-skinny sister, I empathize with Delia. Not that she’s fat and ugly – I don’t even know what she looks like! – but she has lived and worked in her sister’s shadow. In the first essay, “Losing Nora,” she talks about how many of the quotes people attributed to her sister while speaking at her memorial service were actually lines that Delia wrote while they were working together. That’s how their collaboration often went. Her essay about Nora is honest and introspective, not resentful, but not overly gushing, either.

This collection is eclectic, with topics ranging from her hair and her dog, to having her name hijacked on the internet and not feeling Jewish enough during a speaking tour of Jewish authors. My favorite piece by far, however, was “Blame It On the Movies,” in which Ms. Ephron explains how the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers changed her life. I knew then that we were kindred spirits and destined to be great friends – if we should ever meet in person. You see, I watched that movie – and sang along with it – several dozen times as a child. While I loved Adam and Millie, the main characters played and sang by Howard Keel and Jane Powell, I really wanted to be Dorcas. I know – horrible name. But Dorcas got to marry Benjamin, Adam’s quiet but hunky younger brother. He was my favorite of the seven. Each of my sisters had a favorite as well. The actor who played Benjamin (I have no idea who he was) got less screen time, since he obviously couldn’t dance a step without tripping over his feet, but I still found him dreamy. And as a girl, I had no grand ambitions about a career or profession – I wanted to be a wife and mother. So, of course, the idea of a movie where seven brothers fall in love with and marry the first girls they meet was a huge hit. (I over-looked the little bit about the men abducting the women, Sabine-style.) Ephron’s essay reminded me how much I adore this film, and I know I will be watching it again sometime soon – probably the next time my name is chosen for Family Movie Night.

While I loved some of these essays more than others – I’m not a dog-person, and so could have done without some of the gushing over her animal – this is a solid collection, and one I highly recommend. And, Delia, if you are ever in Eastern Washington, and want to get a coffee – call me!

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3 Responses to Book Review: Sister Mother Husband Dog etc. by Deila Ephron

  1. Trisha says:

    SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS! That film has been an obsession of mine since junior high. I can still sing all of the songs, and I even know the dance they do in the barn-party scene. In other words me, you, and Delia need to go out for some coffee and chat.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Trisha – sounds like a perfect coffee date! 🙂 Which brother was your favorite?

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