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Cain's Legacy

Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage, Shame, Secrecy, and Regret
Cain's Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage, Shame, Secrecy, and Regret. Basic Bks: Perseus. Jan. 2012. c.288p. index. ISBN 9780465019403. $25.99. PSYCH
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The biblical sibling strife of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, and Joseph and his brothers dramatizes family problems that afflict one-third of Americans, according to psychotherapist Safer (Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult's Life—for the Better). The author interviews 60 people whose stories illustrate themes of jealousy, competition, money, illness, and communication. Reconciliation happens, but tension and estrangement seem to dominate and persist in these relationships, mostly the fault of parents, including those who (mistakenly) think they can distribute love equally. Safer calls that a "false leveler," since all kids have individual qualities. She advises readers: "Addressing unfinished business with one's own siblings is the best way to foster mutuality in the next generation." Many detailed, melodramatic cases dominate the book. The relatively brief advice is sensible, but more examples of happy sibling relationships would have helped.
VERDICT A useful text for lay and professional readers about a common but neglected relationship problem.

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