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Losing My Sister

Judy Goldman

John F. Blair, Publisher
$21.95 hardcover
5½ x 8½  
192 pages
October 2012 

“Family stories grow to be bigger than the experiences themselves,” writes Judy Goldman in her memoir, Losing My Sister. “They become home to us, tell us who we are, who we want to be. Over the years, they take on more and more embellishments and adornments until they eclipse the actual memory. They become our past—just as a snapshot will, at first, enhance a memory, then replace it.”

As she remembers it now, Goldman’s was an idyllic childhood, charmed even, filled with parental love and sisterly confidences. Growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Judy and her older sister, Brenda, did everything together. Though it was clear from an early age that their personalities were very different (Judy was the “sweet” one, Brenda, the "strong" one), they continued to be fairly inseparable into adulthood.

But the love between sisters is complex. Though Judy and Brenda remained close, Goldman recalls struggling to break free of her prescribed role as the agreeable little sister and to assert herself even as she built her own life and started a family.

The sisters’ relationship became further strained by the illnesses and deaths of their parents, and later, by the discovery that each had tumors in their breasts—Judy’s benign, Brenda’s malignant. The two sisters came back together shortly before the possibility of permanent loss became very real. 

In her uniquely lyrical and poignant style, Goldman deftly navigates past events and present emotions, drawing readers in as she explores the joys and sorrows of family, friendship, and sisterhood.


  • 2013 SIBA Book Award Finalist


"Novelist and poet Goldman (Early Leaving) beautifully renders the complexity of sibling relationships with candidness, tenderness, and sorrow in her chronicle of the immense and troubled love she has for her older sister . . . Goldman’s book speaks to the human ability to forgive and attain a measure of peace amid loss." —Publishers Weekly
“Goldman skillfully maneuvers her memoir into complex terrain, exploring what she calls ‘the complicated alliance of love and will’ between herself and [her sister] Brenda. . . . While the events themselves are heartrending, the memoir ultimately addresses the cathartic discovery that loss and losing can relax familial roles previously perceived as absolutes. VERDICT . . . recommended.” —Library Journal, Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Ctr., Laramie, WY, Sept. 1, 2012
“[Judy Goldman] described her newest work to me as “a small story filled with small events.” Her narrative is, in fact, full of life’s minutiae – childhood play, family dinners, hurt feelings. And yet, the sum of these small parts gives readers something profound – a look at the hidden dynamics that compel a family’s members to play assigned roles.” —Charlotte Observer, Pam Kelley, Sept. 14, 2012
“This book is poignant and heartbreaking but also inspirational. It made me hug my family a little bit closer.” —Jenny Lawson, author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
“Judy Goldman’s Losing My Sister is a big, wise, heart-squeezing book. It puts between hard covers what I’d thought inarticulable—an act not unlike giving flesh to a shadow. This book will help a lot of people—people who are hurting for excellent prose, and people who are just hurting.” —Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
“A moving, gracefully told story of memory, sisters, and the way that love can bridge tragedy.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times best-selling author of Picture of You
“Judy Goldman navigates the bumpy, fierce love that she shares with her sister with equal parts passion and compassion. A memorable story of love and loss.” —Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and the memoir Comfort: A Journey through Grief
“In this finely wrought and moving memoir, Goldman explores in exquisite detail the small and large acts of love between sisters—and, indeed, among all family members. She is able to guide us through the complex emotions of death, loss, and intimacy because her own heart, as well as her writing, is as big and profound as the word love.”
—Sue William Silverman, author of Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir
“What this book does—brilliantly—is suggest in the very rhythm of its telling the messiness and formlessness of relationships and grief, and the redemptive possibility of arranging some order from the chaos of existence. You cannot read this book and not be moved by its honesty and grace.” —Michael Parker, author of The Watery Part of the World
“Judy Goldman deeply loved her sister. She tells us why, she tells us how, and she tells us how much loving hurts in this deeply affecting examination of a special sister bond broken many times before it is—at last and forever—restored.” —Beth Kephart, author of Small Damages and National Book Award finalist A Slant of the Sun
“There is a great luminous beauty to her writing that delights me. Few writers in America have ever written with such passion and insight about the joys and great perils of family life.” —Pat Conroy