Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.

The impetus for the essays collected in Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) is Delia Ephron's loss of her older sister Nora, the firstborn of the four Ephron daughters. Hallie and Amy complete the talented cast. The parents and each of the daughters were or are screenwriters, some are novelists. Delia and Nora co-wrote the play Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which ran for two years off-Broadway and has been performed around the world. Delia's movies include The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, You've Got Mail, Hanging Up and Michael.

High praise from their screenwriter father was: "That's a great line, write it down." Their mother scorned housekeeping, attending children's activities and anything else that smacked of ordinary wifedom and mothering. Delia has nothing good to say about her mother; in the most poignant of the essays, she chronicles her mother's descent into alcoholism, beginning when Delia was 11 and continuing, accompanied by Delia's father, until her death.

Despite all, Delia and Nora grew up with their senses of humor intact. In every essay, she gets several laughs, often at her own expense. She is also mad for dogs (she has a Havanese named Honey) and has lots to say about contemporary life--trying to talk to someone about a tech problem when that someone doesn't speak your language, for instance. Another essay is about ordering online and having it go terribly wrong. She can find the funny in any aspect of life--except the death of her beloved sister. --Valerie Ryan

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