Must Read of 2017

Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir - Sheila Kohler

Late last year, I joined My Book Box, a subscription box service that send you two books each month along with a couple other things (book marks, tea, soap, butterbeer candle, a poster). I signed up for the Mystery and Non-Fiction selections. The mystery selections have been good. Not outstanding, but not bad. The Non-Fiction selection have been outstanding. With the exception of two books, the non-fiction books have been books that I would not have otherwise picked up. (One exception is that I was going to buy the book anyway, and the other is that self help books and I do not get along. I filled out the response survey and said that the same. I got a percentage off a renewal).

I can honesty say that I would not have picked up this book. And that would have been my lost.

Kohler's memoir is so much a memoir as a memoir mediation. She is trying, has been trying, to come to terms with her sister's death, possible murder, for years. Kohler and her sister were born into South Africa in the 40s/50s. In on sense, the book is, as Roxanne Gay would correctly note, a memoir about women in unhappy marriages. Yet, the book manages to transcend that. Perhaps it is because of the world we currently inhabit, perhaps it is because Kohler and her sister would been one of the last generations (if not the last) to be educated to be wives (or who went to college to get a husband), yet both sisters eventually fight against that. Instead of making the breaking/challenging of tradition the moral of story, Kohler allows read to make his or her own conclusions. In some ways, the book seems to be about Kohler's coming to terms with her guilt, over what happened to her sister, over apartheid, over not staying in fight apartheid. Whether or not the guilt is deserved is left up to ready and isn't really the question. Kohler like all of us is plagued by what if and should of.