Growing up in a Jewish family in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Judy and Brenda do everything together. “BrendaandJudy. We’re one long word,” Goldman writes. They play piano duets, share bracelets, share everything. When the neighborhood bully throws a rock at young Judy, it’s Brenda who takes off after him, giving him a beating so hard that a neighbor has to pull her off of him. Though their personalities are very different—Judy is the sweet one; Brenda, the strong one—they remain inseparable into adulthood.
As the two grow older, Judy and Brenda struggle to break free of their prescribed roles in the family, Judy becoming stronger and more assertive and Brenda more vulnerable. When their mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and their father with metastatic colon cancer, Judy finds herself suddenly at odds with Brenda. At their last parent’s funeral, they finally overcome their differences and come back together.
A decade later, they both discover lumps in their breasts. Judy’s tumor is benign, Brenda’s malignant. They confront their diagnoses together with love and understanding. But when Brenda’s cancer recurs, the sisters become mired in conflict. They finally find their way back as the possibility of permanent loss becomes very real. Before Brenda’s death, the two sisters allow their relationship to shine like the marvelous thing it is.
“Throughout the years I was working on this memoir, I struggled with the question: Do I have the right to tell this story?” says Goldman. “Many, many times I decided to pull the plug. But having a voice is important to me. Telling this story—one that has preoccupied me for years—is important to me.”
Goldman’s voice speaks to any woman who has ever loved a sister or lost a loved one. Readers will see parts of their own story in these pages as Goldman deftly navigates past events and present emotions in her uniquely lyrical and poignant style, drawing readers in as she explores the joys and sorrows of sisterhood and family.
Judy Goldman is the author of two novels, Early Leaving and The Slow Way Back, and two books of poetry. Her work has been published in many literary journals, including Kenyon Review, Southern Review, Ohio Review, Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. Segments of this memoir have been published in Real Simple magazine and the online journal Drafthorse. Judy lives with her husband in Charlotte, North Carolina.