I have always defined myself, in part, by my place in my family. I am the fifth child in a family of nine siblings and the first daughter of two daughters. My sister is the eighth child in the family and we are separated by 7 years. Our parents were married at the close of WW2 and we grew up under the strong influence of the Catholic Church. Our parents remained married until my dad's death in 1996 so there were no step siblings or half siblings involved in my life.
My sibs shaped who I am in ways that I can only imagine. I know their impact on who I am today was huge and, frankly, they remain the most influential people in my life. They matter to me. Growing up, I counted on them for companionship, for guidance, for goofiness, for friendship. Who they are now and the struggles and joys of their lives today matter to me a great deal.
My sister, who shares my outlook on family, gave me this book for my birthday and I found it to be an absorbing read. Really, there were no surprises in it but it was enjoyable to read and to relate to the families referenced. The author, Jeffrey Kluger, grew up as the second child in a family of four boys (which later expanded to include two half siblings and a step sibling). His childhood seemed so much more tumultuous than mine but his observations and documentation of siblings, in general, are interesting to me. Chapters include discussions of birth order, how families change (the family I was born into is not the same family that my oldest brother, my youngest brother, or my sister, or any of my siblings were born into),
the presence and consequences of favoritism in families, siblings raising siblings, and the ties that bind siblings during the adult years.
I know my brothers and sister would agree that we were fortunate to have each other. There was support, comfort, and companionship in numbers. I know that there were times when we each "got lost in the shuffle" and I suspect that the sheer volume of noise and personalities overwhelmed me and at least some, if not all, of my sibs (not to mention the 'rents). It was easy to be overlooked and to stay quiet to avoid being seen when you didn't want to be seen. It was also easy to hide in the shadow of a sibling or to delight in the friendship of a sibling.
My siblings are the people who have known me the longest. They grew up with me, through little kidhood, adolescence, marriages, child rearing, and who will continue to stand with me at funerals until, sadly, there is only one standing. We watched each other make choices in life and play them out. I suspect one of the surprises of my later life might be the connections I continue to grow with my brothers and my sister.
As I noted, Mr. Kluger's book doesn't really hold new information for me. I've lived his book and maybe that's why I found it interesting. Maybe you will too.