Monday, January 30, 2017

A South African Novelist Recalls the Sister She Couldn’t Save

 Together: Sheila and Maxine Kohler, c. 1947. Credit Sheila Kohler                    
A Memoir
By Sheila Kohler
Illustrated. 244 pp. Penguin Books. Paper, $16.
Sheila Kohler’s memoir, “Once We Were Sisters,” begins at the height of apartheid, in 1979 South Africa, but the Struggle figures little into her wealthy white family’s life. Instead, the book’s central event is the death of Sheila’s 39-year-old sister, Maxine, killed when her husband, Carl, plows their convertible into a lamppost. Did Carl, a heart surgeon prone to abusive rages, do it on purpose? This suspicion gnaws only at grieving Sheila. Her mother rejects suggestions to investigate. Instead, she sits by Carl’s hospital bed, holding his hand.  MORE

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