Synopses & Reviews
To be sure, some brothers and sisters have relationships that are easy. But oh, some relationships can be fraught. Confusing, too: How can two people share the same parents and turn out to be entirely different?
Marie Brenner’s brother, Carl—yin to her yang, red state to her blue state—lived in Texas and in the apple country of Washington state, cultivating his orchards, polishing his guns, and (no doubt causing their grandfather Isidor to turn in his grave) attending church, while Marie, a world-class journalist and bestselling author, led a sophisticated life among the “New York libs” her brother loathed.
From their earliest days there was a gulf between them, well documented in testy letters and telling photos: “I am a textbook younger child . . . training as bête noir to my brother,” Brenner writes. “He’s barely six years old and has already developed the Carl Look. It’s the expression that the rabbit gets in Watership Down when it goes tharn, freezes in the light.”
After many years apart, a medical crisis pushed them back into each other’s lives. Marie temporarily abandoned her job at Vanity Fair magazine, her friends, and her husband to try to help her brother. Except that Carl fought her every step of the way. “I told you to stay away from the apple country,” he barked when she showed up. And, “Don’t tell anyone out here you’re from New York City. They’ll get the wrong idea.”
As usual, Marie—a reporter who has exposed big Tobacco scandals and Enron—irritated her brother and ignored his orders. She trained her formidable investigative skills on finding treatments to help her brother medically. And she dug into the past of the brilliant and contentious Brenner family, seeking in that complicated story a cure, too, for what ailed her relationship with Carl. If only they could find common ground, she reasoned, all would be well.
Brothers and sisters, Apples and Oranges. Marie Brenner has written an extraordinary memoir—one that is heartbreakingly honest, funny and true. It’s a book that even her brother could love.
"'Perplexing' was the family euphemism for Brenner's older brother Carl; the less tactful thought him 'unknowable,' 'charm-free' or plain 'weird.' At 13, in San Antonio, Tex., where his father owned a discount store, Carl joined the John Birch Society. At 40, he left his career as a trial lawyer to become an apple farmer in Washington's Cascade Mountains. Brenner (House of Dreams) and he were on barely civil terms, but when he was 55, he was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, glandular cancer, and asked Marie for help. She responded, leaving her family in New York to be with Carl, who rejected conventional treatment, and to follow him as far away as China for 'scorpion patches,' herbs and red meat for 'yang deficit.' The cancer spread quickly; meanwhile, Marie sought to investigate her family's present and past among her father's feuding siblings, including writer Anita Brenner (who became part of Mexico City's art scene that included Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo). And with this research, Brenner courageously and affectingly plumbs the depths of often complex family and sibling relationships." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
What is more complicated than the relations between brother and sister? To discover a brother she hardly knew, Marie Brenner, bestselling author and renowned reporter, leaves behind her life in New York City to reconnect with her ailing sibling. Reconnect is not really the right word, however, because the two have never been compatible. Marie’s brother Carl—yin to her yang, red state to her blue state—lives in Texas and the apple country of Washington State, spending his time cultivating his apple orchards, attending church, and paying NRA dues. Meanwhile, Marie has had a successful career among the “self-important lefties” her brother loathes. In her attempt to care for Carl, the journalist instead finds that health problems can hardly slow down her alpha male brother. The unspoken grudges, the long-harbored frustrations, all of it bubbles up as her brother remains determined to live.
In her exposés of Big Tobacco and the Enron scandal, Brenner unveiled the secret networks and simmering malevolence behind the corporate façade. Now the reporter trains her incisive eye on the complexities of family dynamics.
In the end, Apples and Oranges is a book about reconciliation. Forced to face the faults and follies of their relationship, Brenner learns to speak her brother’s language, and eventually the two are able to break down some of the walls. Apples and Oranges is a fearless look at families and what makes them stick together— for better or for worse.
In her exposs of Big Tobacco and Enron, Brenner unveiled the secret networks and simmering malevolence behind the corporate facade. Now the reporter trains her eye on the complexities of her own family dynamics and what makes them stick together.
A TOP TEN FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR--MICHIKO KAKUTANI, THE NEW YORK TIMES
A ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH BEST MEMOIR OF THE YEAR
INCLUDES AN AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH LESLEY STAHL
Marie Brenner's extraordinary memoir of sibling rivalry asks a universal question: How can two people from the same family turn out so entirely different? Brenner's brother, Carl, lives in the apple country of Washington State, cultivating his orchards, polishing his guns, and attending church, while Marie, a world-class journalist and bestselling author, leads a sophisticated life among the "New York libs" whom he loathes. His life far from their secular Jewish childhood in Texas was as mysterious to her as their tangled past. In this affecting family saga, Brenner investigates their contentious history and discovers how inspiring it can be to turn a brother into an ally. Honest, funny, and true, Apples and Oranges is a moving story of sibling rivalry and redemption.
About the Author
is Writer at Large for Vanity Fair
. Her exposé of the tobacco industry, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” was the basis for the 1999 movie The Insider
. She is also the author of the bestselling House of Dreams: The Bingham Family of Louisville