Invisible Sisters: A Memoir

Jessica Handler (Author)


When Jessica Handler was eight years old, her younger sister Susie was diagnosed with leukemia. To any family, the diagnosis would have been upending, but to the Handlers, whose youngest daughter, Sarah, had been born with a rare, fatal blood disorder, it was an unimaginable verdict. Struck by the unlikelihood of siblings sick with diametrically opposed illnesses, the medical community labeled the Handlers' situation a bizarre coincidence. To their mother, the girls' unlikely diagnoses constituted a reverse miracle--the sort no one wishes for. By the time she was nine years old, Jessica had begun to introduce herself as the "well sibling."

Deeply moving and exquisitely written, Invisible Sisters is an extraordinary story of coming of age as the odd one out--as the daughter of progressive Jewish parents who moved to the South to participate in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as the healthy sister among sick, and eventually, as the only sister left standing. In a book that is as hard to forget as it is to put down, Handler captures the devastating effects of illness and death on a family and the triumphant account of one woman's enduring journey to step out of the shadow of loss to find herself anew.

Product Details

$20.95  $18.86
University of Georgia Press
Publish Date
September 15, 2015
5.48 X 0.73 X 8.55 inches | 0.79 pounds
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About the Author

JESSICA HANDLER teaches creative writing in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing about Grief and Loss. Her nonfiction has appeared in, More Magazine, the Chattahoochee Review, Tin House, and Ars Medica.


"This clear-eyed, candid work portrays the immense emotional toll that two daughters' illnesses take on a family."--"Publishers Weekly"
"With a sure grasp of revelatory detail, the author recalls homely verities from a vanished life. Her memory piece is an elegy for her dead sisters, who are not quite lost as long as they live in her thoughts. A heartfelt, painful family saga, skillfully told by a survivor."--"Kirkus Reviews"
"Some memoirs are affecting because they are universal, some because they are unique. Jessica Handler's Invisible Sisters derives its gut-punch power from being both. . . . Handler tells this story with the lyrical elegance and cool remove of Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking"--the highest praise possible for any memoir of loss. . . . There is an undeniable burden in being 'the only one left, ' but there is true grace in the act--and art--of first remembering, then surviving."--Terese Weaver, "Atlanta Magazine"
""Invisible Sisters" is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Even as Jessica Handler tells us of her family's losses, she reminds us to celebrate life. Handler shows us how to move forward without being afraid to look back. This book is a gift."--Ann Hood, author of "Comfort"
"Invisible Sisters is an unsentimental but deeply moving look at the ways in which loss--loss past and the loss that is still to come--can shape lives. Jessica Handler's book is a quiet, near-hypnotic tour de force."--Michael Wex, author of "Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods"
""Invisible Sisters" chronicles the ambush of a happy family and its devastation in the face of every hope and effort. What Jessica Handler has rescued from grief, bravely and without self-pity, is the story of her own hard-won survival. The book in which she discovers a self separate from the anguished role she seemed destined to play haunted me from its very first page and has not let me go."--Rosellen Brown, author of "Before and After"