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Coming through crisis, ‘While My Sister Sleeps’ nothing short of beautiful

BY RACHAEL LANDER | FEBRUARY 24, 2009 7:29 AM

If author Barbara Delinsky is still upset from getting bumped from her Honors English class in high school for not being able to keep up, she sure doesn’t show it. The best-selling writer has proven herself by having more than 20 successful books to her credit. Her latest, While My Sister Sleeps, is nothing short of a beautiful story.

The book tells the emotional tale of Molly and her (surprise surprise) sister Robin. Molly is overshadowed by her marathon-running sibling and is easily frustrated by her inability to discuss anything but athletics. One night, Molly receives a call from the hospital about Robin, whom Molly thinks is just out for an evening jog. Thinking the call concerns another one of Robin’s benign running injuries, Molly feeds her cat and takes a shower before leaving to inquire about her sister.

Once she arrives at the hospital, Molly is struck with the horrible news that her sister suffered a heart attack and consequently is on life support. Robin’s cardiac episode was the result of a genetic condition which caused her to have an enlarged heart that could not withstand her vigorous exercise. Throughout While My Sister Sleeps, Molly and her family cope with the possibility that they may lose Robin forever.

Delinksy’s novels often focus on how people deal with emotional trauma. She says on her website that the reason she sticks to writing about crises is a direct result of her mother’s death, which occurred when Delinsky was 8 years old.

While My Sister Sleeps tackles the topic of sibling rivalry. The two sisters, although close, are separated by closeted jealousy. Molly envies Robin’s constant hold of their mother’s attention, but Robin is also jealous of Molly’s character.

Throughout the duration of Robin’s coma, Molly comes to terms with her personal relationships, namely the confusing bond she shares with her mother. Tragedy joins the women, and they finally repair their damaged relationship.

The transition into friendship isn’t easy for Molly and her mother, but the characters persevere through even the toughest of spots. Throughout Robin’s stay in the hospital, Molly and her mother finally address Molly’s insecurities about being less of a source of pride to her family because she isn’t a champion runner like her sister.

When Molly comes across Robin’s diary, it reveals closely held secrets that make it easier for Molly to come to terms with the relationships she has with her family throughout While My Sister Sleeps.
Delinsky’s ability to take a horrifying event and weave it into a beautiful familial tale is absolutely remarkable. While My Sister Sleeps is bittersweet and extremely moving, and with its frank display of sibling rivalry, shows that Delinsky can handle even the most sensitive topics in her novels.


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