Sister Crazy

Mom’s solution for everything? “Go outside and take a few deep breaths.” For Jem, a middle child in a family of seven, it’s good advice. For a reader caught in the mental miasma of Emma Richler’s fictional debut, Sister Crazy, it’s imperative. Seven non-linear stories portray Jem’s life with her Jewish cowboy dad, metaphysical mom and finicky siblings. Jem’s identity blurs and re-emerges in this never-quite-coming-of-age tale, as the girl plays Action Man with the guys and takes care of her ultra-sensitive little sister. Some dark, goth-toned subtexts recall The Virgin Suicides. After Jem sticks a knife in her hand: "The little wound in my palm like the mouth of a fish feeding on the surface of a pond, opening and closing." It’s not an easy read, but I found myself immersed after the first story. Still, from time to time I had set it down, go outside and take in some air.