“Extraordinary . . . Thanks to his sister's new book, 'Apples & Oranges,' Carl Brenner did not succeed in vanishing without a trace. Rather, his life, with all its startling twists and turns, and his singular, sometimes maddening personality are magically conjured for us in these pages, as Ms. Brenner uses the prism of her love and grief for her brother—and her bewilderment too—to create a haunting portrait of him and their family. She has written a book that captures the nervous, emotionally strangled relationship she shared with him for the better part of their lives, a book that explores the difficult algebra of familial love and the possibility of its renewal in the face of impending loss. . . . Ms. Brenner tracks the leitmotifs that run through their lives, the patterns—of sibling estrangements, of fresh starts and do-overs—that have stamped their family tree, and in doing so she has given us a beautifully observed and deeply affecting memoir, a book written with the unsparing eye of a journalist and the aching heart of a sister who learned in March of 2003 that her ailing brother had killed himself.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“If you’ve ever loathed your sibling, even momentarily, you'll be partial to this memoir. ‘It seems inconceivable that we are connected, and yet not,’ Brenner writes of her obsessive-compulsive brother Carl. Brenner, a journalist, tries to understand him (why he’s so condescending, why he left law to become an apple farmer) the only way she knows how: researching apples, visiting him unannounced at his 110,000-tree orchard in Washington, and taking notes. While our innate craving to pick fights with family may endure, Brenner reminds us that it's more productive to eat apples than to throw them. A-” —Entertainment Weekly
“O, BROTHER, WHO ART THOU?
AT 3, CARL BRENNER welcomed his baby sister into the world by tossing her out the window. The family joked that Carl gave Marie the gift of a hard head, an asset fully in evidence-along with her hungry heart-in her memoir, Apples & Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). More than any other book in recent memory, this one grabs the problem of sibling rivalry by the throat and shakes relentlessly. Carl is dying as the book begins, and Marie, now a celebrated reporter, has found her way back into his life, after decades of soul-bashing standoffs, using her investigative skills to probe the mysteries of his disease-and of their tormented relationship. She may never learn what drove her imperious, obsessive-compulsive, "charm-free" brother to give up a career as a trial lawyer to grow apples in Washington State; or what entrenched family dynamic doomed the siblings to reach for each other only across a "canyon of rage." But it is Marie's furious search for answers that gives this book its power, exposing the sweetness at the core of an embattled love.” —O magazine, June 2008