2014 · 3 stars · non-fiction

Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) by Delia Ephron

Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) by Delia Ephron
Pub. Date: August 26, 2014
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Plume!)
Summary: Delia Ephron brings her trademark wit and effervescent prose to a series of autobiographical essays about life, love, sisterhood, movies, and family. 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.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays

Two years ago the world lost a beloved writer, director, and all-around good person with Nora Ephron’s passing. I’ll admit that, until reading this book, I hadn’t realized just how much Nora did. As a bookseller I’m well aware of her books, but her movies? I’m ashamed to say I had no idea classics like Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail (an absolute favorite in our household!), and When Harry Met Sally were Nora’s creations. Anyone who enjoys rom-com, feel good films has Nora to thank.

Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) is Delia Ephron’s collection of essays, part memoir, part biographical, part musing on life. I wasn’t quite sure what to think going into it, but once I got started I couldn’t stop. Clocking in at a mere 220 pages, this book runs the gamut of emotion: I teared up at Delia’s recollection of Nora’s final moments (and coming to terms with the loss of her sister). I delighted at the passages about the bakeries and cafes she frequents. I laughed and smiled and wept at her thoughts on dogs (I’ll let you in on a little secret: add a dog into your novel and I’ll not only read it, but I’ll openly rejoice AND sob – unless it’s a happy story and all stories involving dogs should be happy ones).

Every so often I’ll get into a non-fic mood and Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) suited this perfectly. Because the essays are around ten pages (and that’s on the long side!), reading was a breeze. The day I read this was a day full of errands, including a trip to everyone’s favorite place: the DMV. There are moments when the universe aligns just so and that was one of them. What would have been a hassle and painful experience turned out to be a, dare I say it, rather enjoyable hour! The bite-sized stories in this book are absolutely fantastic for those odd chunks of time spent waiting, not to say that I equate Deliah Ephron’s work to spending the day at the DMV!

With a novel this small, there’s a surprising amount of substance! Delia’s humor positively shines (I especially adore her essay entitled #TheHairReport where she gives hair reports based on the weather – “Beautiful. A Beyonce day.” and “Cold. Sacrifice hair for ears. Wear hat.“), but just as quickly she’ll turn it upside-down with memories of her parents’ battles with alcoholism (a battle her mother ultimately lost).

Through musings on how her father would have loved Twitter to what Having It All really means (and how high school set the bar for success) to having her domain name stolen, Delia Ephron dishes out wit and charm in spades. Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) is the quintessential one-sitting read – though you’ll want to have a buddy on hand, there are so many passages that are virtually screaming to be read aloud!


(Verb tense has begun to confuse me. I have three sisters, I had three sisters. I have two sisters. I have three sisters. Nora is a national treasure.)

New Yorkers are born all over the country and then they come to the city and it strikes them: “Oh, this is who I am.”

(Actually you only have to watch Seinfeld to know everything. There is a Seinfeld episode for every single thing that happens in life, which is a remarkable achievement.)

Never underestimate the power of high school. It’s the identity everyone wants to live down, the approval everyone aspires to. Being able to check the boxes – marriage, children, career – is more important at a high school reunion than anywhere else, which is why I think that high school, not feminism, is the reason an idea of happiness got framed this way. It instantly creates the social world of high school: haves, have-nots, wannabes, and freaks. Freaks are those who aspires to other versions of life, who want to march to their own tune. Thanks to this definition of success, they will always be freaks. Freaks forever.


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