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My Sister's Bones

My Sister's Bones

3.9 11
by Cathi Hanauer

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At sixteen, Billie Weinstein has plenty of problems: She's the only Jewish girl living in the all-Italian neighborhood of West Berry, NJ; she's trying hard to please her know-it-all father who listens to opera at full volume and drives full speed, and her too-accommodating mother who is either taking care of Billie's father, or Billie and her sister, or the two


At sixteen, Billie Weinstein has plenty of problems: She's the only Jewish girl living in the all-Italian neighborhood of West Berry, NJ; she's trying hard to please her know-it-all father who listens to opera at full volume and drives full speed, and her too-accommodating mother who is either taking care of Billie's father, or Billie and her sister, or the two dogs; and on top of everything else, her older sister Cassie goes off to college, leaving Billie to fend for herself.

And now Billie's studying for the SATs. The task her father has given her is to learn twenty words a day, read the New York Times at least twice a week and watch Masterpiece Theatre whenever he tells her to, mostly because he likes it. Then Billie discovers her sister's secret: Cassie is battling anorexia and Billie's parents excuse Cassie's weight loss as stress due to the competitive atmosphere at college. Billie knows something is drastically wrong with her sister; something that could be fatal.

This novel is touching and funny and moving, and it got great reviews. And Billie Weinstein is so wry and humorous a protagonist, she's the kind of girl every woman wishes she'd had as a best friend growing up.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A medical case guide couldn't present the pathology of anorexia more clearly than this coming-of-sexuality novel does. But Hanauer goes beyond Judy Blume-style fictionalizing of symptoms: her uncanny ear for dialogue creates a dead-on characterization of driven Jewish intellectual snobbery set against Italian working-class earthiness. To keep their two daughters, Cassie and narrator Billie, from growing up spoiled, Michael and Jane Weinstein have chosen to raise them not in North Berry, N.J., where the women's room in the country club offers hair-straightening irons, but in West Berry, a world of Vinnies and Dominicks where wrestling is more important than SATs. Michael is a type A surgeon. His relentless pressure has pushed Cassie into Best Athlete/Most Likely to Succeed high-school performance-which is quickly followed, during her first semester at Cornell, by a descent into anorexia and its attendant anxieties. Because of Michael's denial and Jane's desire to please, the wonderfully sensitive and assertive Billie is left to do most of the worrying about "my sister, hyper and bony, wasting away," even while she grapples with her own issues of desire and achievement. The struggles over control in Hanauer's neatly executed first novel go straight to the heart. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This is a beautifully written first novel about an ordinary, nonpracticing Jewish dysfunctional family in the suburbs. Father is an authoritarian physician. Mother is a teacher, caring but sensitive to social conventions. Daughter Cassie, a freshman at Cornell, is beautiful and brainy. Only her sister, Billie, 16 and not very sure of herself, realizes Cassie is losing weight, a lot of it, and has changed in other ways as well. When Cassie's weight drops dangerously, the family puts her into a resident facility for treatment of anorexia. Billie gets a boyfriend, a star wrestler, but gives herself physically to her friend's older brother. Gradually, as Cassie seems to disappear until only her bones remain, Billie begins to accept herself and strives to break free of her family. Hanauer paints a disturbing picture of the horrific effects of anorexia on patient and family. Recommended for public libraries.-Barbara Maslekoff, Ohioana Lib., Columbus
Kirkus Reviews
From September to May, here are an eventful few months in the life of a plucky New Jersey girl, a doctor's younger daughter who is coming of age just as her beautiful older sister begins to succumb to anorexia.

At 15, Billie Weinstein, unlike her accomplished 18-year-old sister Cassie, is a rebel—and a charming mess. Her schoolwork is only adequate in a family that expects straight A's, she harbors an inappropriate crush on a local gas-station attendant called Dom, and her beloved best friend Tiffany is the school hood. Billie's father, a surgeon and a dictatorial though fundamentally loving dad, has successfully coached and coaxed Cassie into her freshman year at Cornell, his alma mater, and now is turning his watchful gaze on Billie, who is cramming for PSATs. She's also tepidly dating a boy named Vinnie, captain of the wrestling team, and secretly communicating with Cassie, who's away at college and giving veiled hints of disturbing, self-destructive episodes. When Cassie comes home for Christmas weighing 95 pounds and refusing to eat, chaos erupts. Billie's father decides to "fix" the situation by forcing Cassie to eat (she doesn't); Billie's mother weakly intercedes; and Cassie steadily deteriorates, losing her hair, becoming too weak to walk, eventually having to be hospitalized. In a riveting, powerful scene set in the family car on the way back from a hospital visit, Billie, ordered by her father to take the wheel and practice driving, is so criticized, controlled, and belittled by him that she pulls over, flees, and hunts up Dom, who sullenly takes her virginity and then gets drunk. Interesting subplots abound, meanwhile, in a novel that keeps moving and doesn't fall back on false reprieves or sudden saving changes of character. Cassie and her parents remain locked in a battle of expectations and resistance; only Billie sees the family pattern clearly enough to begin to escape.

A persuasive, well-rendered, and rich first novel about family systems.

From the Publisher
“A poignant but also lively and humorous novel, with characters so believable you expect them to rise up off the page.”New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg

My Sister’s Bones works a miracle. . . . Funny and idiosyncratic, elegant and simple . . . [Cathi] Hanauer gives power and dignity to the subject of anorexia.”The Village Voice

“A persuasive, well-rendered, and rich first novel about family.”Kirkus Reviews

“Beautifully written . . . Hanauer paints a disturbing picture of the horrific effects of anorexia on patient and family.”Library Journal

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.96(d)

Meet the Author

Cathi Hanauer is the author of three novels—My Sister’s BonesSweet Ruin, and Gone—and is the editor of the New York Times bestselling essay collection The Bitch in the House. A former columnist for GlamourMademoiselle, and Seventeen, she has written for The New York TimesElleSelfReal Simple, and other magazines. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband, New York Times “Modern Love” editor Daniel Jones, and their daughter and son.

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My Sister's Bones 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was expecting the book to be more about the sister with the eating disorder. It was interesting though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I felt that this was a novel that would draw the attention of a younger audience. The story line in this book allowed the reader to take a journey into an eating disorder, but experience from another point of view. There are many books out now that are about eating disorders, however, it seems rare to find one that shows this growing problem from another point of view. Overall, a great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I read the information about the book, I thought it would be about a girl helping her sister to fight anorexia. The book was hardly about that. It was more about the girl's boyfriend and having sex in a gas station. It was disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was an awsome book .If I was a teacher I would make my students read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book isn't like most books about eating disorders because it is centered on one girl's life and her relationships with her family and boyfriend. It shows an eating disorder in literature through a new perspective; it's not narrated by the person with the disorder. I really enjoyed this book because for one I am around the same age as the narrator. I liked how it wasn't just about anorexia.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Interesting story of a girl trapped in a family where everyone is dominated by a tyranical father. The book is more about her and her coming to terms with herself than with her sister's illness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had an eating disorder myself, although it wasn't the same one in the book; I was bulimic. This book inspired me to start eating healthy, it really makes you think about what you are doing to yourself. Everyone must definitely read this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most books on the subject of eating disorders are either from the point of view of the sufferer or a medical expert. This, however, is the story of the sister of an anorexic. The reader sees how the illness affects the sufferer's family. I loved being able to see from the younger sister's viewpoint.
Guest More than 1 year ago
No book could ever truly show how horrible anorexia is, but this story comes close. Being a former anorexic myself with (too) many similarities to Cassie, it gave me a hint as to what my family and friends had to deal with. I recommend this book for anyone who either has an eating disorder, or knows someone who does (and that is just about everyone!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is the BEST BOOK that i have ever read and i have read quite a few and u know what i think EVERYONE should read this i was so moved because i use to be anorexic and this totally changed me i started eating the day after i finished this book especially when u hear about Lisa that hit me like a knife in the chest! i was so her and u have to read it to understand but i think every teen who thinks shes fat should read this book i never thought i was fat again please read it you will finish it in about 5 hours its sooo hard to put down so go out and get it!! now what are u waiting for?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an entertaining book. Nice believable story line. I really enjoyed reading this book