Sister Salty, Sister Sweet: A Memoir of Sibling Rivalry
At four, Shannon Kring spends her days stuffing anything she can get her hands on into her red leather suitcase, playing 60 Minutes with her Barbie dolls, and basking in the limelight cast on her by her over-attentive mother. Then her sister Natalie is born. Everyone loves the well-behaved baby-grocery store clerks, bank tellers, and to Shannon’s horror, her parents. Realizing she isn’t the novelty she once was, Shannon reclaims her parents’ attention by playing with matches, chewing her father’s tobacco, and calling her cat a “cocksucky.” Once placed in the background, Natalie is kept there though Shannon’s playroom domination and dramatic schemes. Convinced her sister is the favored child-which she demonstrates through drawing a gift graph to document the injustice as evidenced through uneven gift counts-Natalie takes to her room, where she regularly holds pity parties: staring in the mirror in awe at the sad-clown contortions of her face, her nose growing pink and puffy, her upper lip morphing into a hideous frown. When Shannon is confronted by dramas not of her own making-a sexual assault and her consequent anorexia-she is for the first time envious of her sister’s anonymity. Natalie, who was sheltered from the truth of her sister’s situation, sees only the attention and now craves it more than ever. Sister Salty, Sister Sweet is a coming-of-age story with dark humor, straight-up characterizations, and bald honesty. It is supported by characters such as Grandpa Orv, who scratches or burns his name into all his possessions, and their grandmother Gabby, who dreams of evil nuns, keeps a Gerber jar of holy water on her microwave, and who the girls’ father simply refers to as Nutcase. From puberty and neighborhood pranks to first loves and leaving home, the sisters jockey for standing within their family, struggle to establish common ground, and ultimately find their places in the world and with each other.