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
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 rebeland 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.
“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