Tuesday, May 12, 2009

While My Sister Sleeps by Barbara Delinsky

The premise: Molly and Robin Snow, sisters who are incredibly close yet incredibly different, are in the prime of life. Robin has always been the hardworking star, an elite marathoner in peak condition even training for the upcoming Olympic trials. She relies on Molly in countless ways, though Molly must also maintain long hours at the family business, a plant and tree nursery. When Robin suffers a massive heart attack, the roles are reversed, and Molly finds herself having to be the one in the spotlight, speaking up on behalf of her sister. Though the doctors don't expect Robin to recover, her mother is not willing to accept such a grim prognosis. As she tries to deny Robin's fate, the discovery of a lifetime of secrets comes tumbling forward.

Ms. Delinsky does a great job with a delicate subject. She develops her characters well and shows the family conflict with the dilemma of having a loved-one on life support as well as dealing with the secrets that emerge from Robin's closet as they try to do what is best for Robin. Myself, as a daughter and sister-in-law I could fully imagine what Molly and her family must have been going through. How do you know what someone so young would want, and how do you deal with the grief. It also gave me a chance to ponder things I had not quite gotten around to thinking about.

I discovered Molly and Robin's grandmother having Alzheimer's and the way the family reacts to her and her "sprites" made me really ponder our elderly and my close relationship with my own grandparents as well. It also gave the book another dimension that without it would really have been lacking.

I don't have a sister but it has been my observation that sisters have one of the most interesting relationships in the family dynamic. They love each other beyond belief, would do anything for one another but in most families there also comes a level of rivalry as well. This fictional family is no different. Through the whole book it is very apparent that Molly is Robin's champion. She does everything for Robin and as Robin lays in the hospital it is Molly who tries to put forth "what Robin would want".

Molly as the younger sister deals with growing up, a lot of guilt and basically learns her way through the entire novel. (For example on page 211)David smiled sadly. "that's the dilemma with family. When it comes to our parents, we're always children. At what point do we grow up? They raise us to function as individuals, but when do they allow us to act independently?" Its hard to get someone to take you seriously when they still view you as a child.

You may have heard the old saying that "life is like an onion; it has many layers", well so does this book. The relationship between mothers and daughters, a grandmother and granddaughter, brother and sister, husband and wife are all very different layers that ultimately make up the whole. How do each learn to deal with letting go and when to do so? Just because someone isn't capable of carrying on a conversation with you does that mean that the love stops? Do you stop sitting by their bed or visiting and talking with them?

Ultimately during the hard times it is then that we need our families and close friends nearby. The ones that will point out what we are doing right or wrong and help to be our guide.

Overall the book raises some good questions about the secrets we keep in our life, our families, how the past affects our futures, how what we say or what we don't say can leave us hurting years down the road. Face it we all have secrets in the closets but isn't it better when the secrets are out in the open and we know what we are dealing with?

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