A River Runs Through It

I write a lot about being a sister, and I am always looking at sibling relationships in both real life and in literature. One of the most memorable portrayals of a sibling relationship is in Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It. (It is also in my top ten of best movies ever made.) I learn something new about both writing and being a sibling every time I re-read this classic book. One of the great “lessons” of the book is the despair of never being able to “save” a beloved brother, but also, finally, acceptance that this was so.

One passage from the book that I particularly love: “Yet even in the loneliness of the canyon I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as ‘our brothers’ keepers,’ possessed of one of the oldest and possibly one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting of instincts. It will not let us go.”

My brother’s keeper is one of the most familiar phrases in our civilized society. But what about my sister’s keeper? Is there a rule book for this stuff, or are we all just winging it? Maybe my family of six sisters is just standard-issue dysfunctional, and we are all walking around trying to figure out our lives, and putting on a good face. As the oldest of the six sisters, I have always felt the fierce obligation of sisterhood, or “the haunting instinct” that will also, like Maclean, not let me go…

One thought on “A River Runs Through It

  1. Jill October 30, 2020 / 6:55 am

    The author also had sisters as well as Paul his brother. Five sisters but I guess that’s why the book is classed as a semi autobiography hey


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