Author(s): Sheila Kohler
Once We Were Sisters is the story of Maxine and Sheila Kohler. Growing up in the suffocating gentility of 1950s South Africa, the girls plan grand lives for themselves that will bring them out of the long shadow cast by their father's death and their overbearing mother's bullying. Maxine is just shy of her fortieth birthday when her husband, a brilliant and respected surgeon, drives their car off the road and kills her. Devastated, Sheila returns to South Africa, determined to find answers to her sister's sudden death at the hands of her husband. More haunting, however, are the questions. How had she failed to protect her sister? Was Maxine's murder a matter of accident, or destiny? What lies in the soil of their troubled motherland that condemns its women to such violence? Powerful, moving and tragic, Once We Were Sisters is an act of love, an extraordinary account of an unspeakable loss.
A rich and poignant memoir -- J M COETZEE Beautiful and disturbing ... It is a tragic tale, with echoes of cultural sexism and misogyny, yet a triumphant story of a young woman's liberation from this culture and her emergence as a writer -- JOYCE CAROL OATES Kohler has put together this heartfelt, suspenseful confession with a lifetime's worth of skill and an abundance of inborn genius -- EDMUND WHITE This lean memoir cuts straight to the heart of what it is to love - and lose - a sister ... Exquisite and devastating -- TRACY K. SMITH Sheila Kohler's writing is visually potent, viscerally compelling, and intensely personal. In Once We Were Sisters she conjures a lost world of privilege, violence, and repression that has chilling parallels in contemporary life -- REBECCA MILLER Never have I read anything that has captured with such delicate and devastating precision what it was like to grow up as a young girl in 1950s-South Africa. Kohler describes the cloying, narrow-minded culture of privilege as well as the deep shame of apartheid, which so insidiously pervaded every aspect of people's lives. The tragic consequences of that culture on Kohler's family are exquisitely rendered. This is a beautifully written, compelling, powerful memoir that continues to resonate long after it is finished -- LU SPINNEY author of BEYOND THE HIGH BLUE AIR
Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of fourteen works of fiction including the novels Dreaming for Freud, Becoming Jane Eyre and Cracks, which was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and made into a film starring Eva Green. Her work has been featured in the New York Times and O Magazine and included in The Best American Short Stories. She has twice won an O'Henry Prize, as well as an Open Fiction Award, a Willa Cather Prize and a Smart Family Foundation Prize. She teaches at Princeton University and lives in New York City. www.sheilakohler.com