With a string of wildly successful books behind her, communications expert Deborah Tannen turns to the emotionally charged topic of sisterhood. Written in a conversational style, You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! offers a look into the passionate dynamics that occur in the relationships between sisters, a visceral connection that can be both symbiotic and suffocating, life-changing and joyful. No one can relate to you like a sister, no one can share your experiences like a sister and conversely, no one can push your buttons like a sister.

Tannen bases her work on interviews—or as she prefers to say, focused conversations—with more than 100 women, ranging in age from late teens to their early 90s. One of the many strengths of this powerful book is the way she highlights the stories the women tell about their lives. We learn how their sisters were there for them in a time of crisis, how they converse in a unique way (“sisterspeak”) and how they provide a lifeline for each other. Many subjects felt that their sisters were someone “to talk to and laugh with,” someone who shares the same childhood memories. In the interviews, Tannen skillfully weaves the poignant (“I can’t imagine life without her”) with the mundane (“I love her to death but she drives me crazy”) and a fascinating picture emerges. Is sisterhood a bond or bondage?

In The Other Boleyn Girl, Anne says to Mary, “I was born to be your rival. And you, mine. We’re sisters, aren’t we?” A sisterly relationship can be challenging, fraught with peril and misunderstandings. One misstep, one false note in a heart-to-heart conversation, and the connection is severed or irreparably damaged.

Tannen, one of three sisters herself, has written a captivating book that offers a window into this fascinating topic.

Mary Kennedy is a psychologist and mystery writer in Delaware. Her new series, The Talk Radio Mysteries, will be released in January.

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