Excerpt from Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Edie Richter is Not Alone

by Rebecca Handler

Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler X
Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler
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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 192 pages

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Rachel Hullett
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Chapter 2

I couldn't figure out whether Dad was technically dying, but we moved from Boston to San Francisco to be closer to him. Oren had wanted to get out of the snow anyway, and he got a job at Coral, an oil company based just outside of San Francisco. I quit my job at the antihunger organization and picked up some freelance work writing fund-raising letters. We flew with ten-year-old Frisbee in a carrier on our laps and got a small apartment in the inner Richmond district, three blocks from Golden Gate Park.

After Dad's diagnosis, Mom started labeling things and let Dad grow a beard. She went to a baby store and bought plastic child-protection locks for the kitchen. Just so he won't stab me, she said, as I wrestled with one of them, trying to get a corkscrew out from a drawer. You remember Tanya from my walking group? Her mother attacked the cleaning lady and they had to move her into a home.

Dad's illness was hard on Abby. She was twenty-two and living at home, trying to be a blogger. She became vegan and woke up early every morning to run five miles. She started doing most of the cooking for Mom and Dad. Mostly curry, Mom told me on the phone. I think your sister is trying to give us a permanent case of diarrhea. Not that I'm not grateful.

My sister came along when I was fourteen. Mom didn't think she could have any more children, but her body proved otherwise. One rainy night, Dad woke me up and said, We're going to the hospital to have the baby. Mrs. Whitaker's downstairs on the couch. He was home the next morning to see me off to school and said they named her Abigail and what did I think?

I told him, It matters more what she thinks. After all, it's her name.

Always the practical one, he said, pinching my arm and pulling me close. I can't wait for you to meet her.

Mom and the baby came home three days later. Abby had jaundice and needed to be kept under ultraviolet light. Jaundice is no reason to keep a baby in the hospital, Mom grumbled as she sat down carefully on the couch. As if we don't have lights in this house. Edie, be a dear and get your mother a glass of water.

Dad handed me the baby, swaddled in a blanket with blue and pink footprints, and said, Abby, meet Edie. She's your big sister.

I looked down at her red cheeks and her tiny nose. Her eyes were closed and she was wearing a lavender cap. She weighed practically nothing, a strange little animal. I felt her sigh.

How do you know she's yours and not some other baby? I asked Mom.

Dad untucked the blanket and pulled out a skinny arm to show me her wristband. See, Edie? Mom's name is on there.

My thumb and index finger fit easily around Abby's wrist. Her fingers seemed extra long. I held her hand up to my nose and inhaled. She smelled like macaroons. Then I smelled her head and kissed her on the cheek. What's for dinner, Abby? I teased. What are you going to make for us? My parents laughed in apparent relief.

My sister turned into a very talkative person. She was scatterbrained and always looked like she fell out of a ceiling fan. Mom saved a copy of a form she filled out for Abby's kindergarten teachers. Responding to the section Tell us anything about your child that could be helpful to the teacher, she wrote, Chatty Patty, and Abby has a propensity to express her strong emotions and needs to be reminded to have more self-control.

Abby expressed her emotions in the form of shouting and new hobbies. Now, with Dad's illness, it was cooking, mostly stews.

At first Dad wrote Post-it notes and stuck them everywhere, to the bathroom mirror, his bedside table. Two kinds of notes: explanatory—You have problems with your memory—and directional—Use the blue toothbrush. Later, the notes became This is your house and Your Wife Is Louise and Your Children Are Edith and Abigail.

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Excerpted from Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler. Copyright © 2021 by Rebecca Handler. Excerpted by permission of The Unnamed Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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