Apples and Oranges, My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner

Apples and Oranges:  My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner is a memoir that I’m just not even sure how to review.  Something tells me that I’m supposed to like this book.  Perhaps, I thought that I would relate to Marie more than I did.  I freely admit that my little brother and I fought like cats and dogs growing up and perhaps the reason we get along now is because we live across the country from each other.  I thought for sure I would just “get it.”  But I struggled.

Here is a synopsis from the publisher:

To be sure, some brothers and sisters have relationships that are easy. But oh, some relationships can be fraught. Confusing, too: How can two people share the same parents and turn out to be entirely different?

Marie Brenner’s brother, Carl—yin to her yang, red state to her blue state—lived in Texas and in the apple country of Washington state, cultivating his orchards, polishing his guns, and (no doubt causing their grandfather Isidor to turn in his grave) attending church, while Marie, a world-class journalist and bestselling author, led a sophisticated life among the “New York libs” her brother loathed.

From their earliest days there was a gulf between them, well documented in testy letters and telling photos: “I am a textbook younger child . . . training as bête noir to my brother,” Brenner writes. “He’s barely six years old and has already developed the Carl Look. It’s the expression that the rabbit gets in Watership Down when it goes tharn, freezes in the light.”

After many years apart, a medical crisis pushed them back into each other’s lives. Marie temporarily abandoned her job at Vanity Fair magazine, her friends, and her husband to try to help her brother. Except that Carl fought her every step of the way. “I told you to stay away from the apple country,” he barked when she showed up. And, “Don’t tell anyone out here you’re from New York City. They’ll get the wrong idea.”

As usual, Marie—a reporter who has exposed big Tobacco scandals and Enron—irritated her brother and ignored his orders. She trained her formidable investigative skills on finding treatments to help her brother medically. And she dug into the past of the brilliant and contentious Brenner family, seeking in that complicated story a cure, too, for what ailed her relationship with Carl. If only they could find common ground, she reasoned, all would be well.

Brothers and sisters, Apples and Oranges. Marie Brenner has written an extraordinary memoir—one that is heartbreakingly honest, funny and true. It’s a book that even her brother could love.

I’ve never really done this before, but I’m deferring this entire review to Melissa over at the Book Nut (review published here at Estella’s Revenge).  Her review pretty much summed up my entire experience word for word.  So why try to reinvent the wheel?  Part of that review states amongst other observations:

I found Brenner to be ruthless in her observations, sparing no one: her family, her work companions, her current and former husbands. In addition to the biting reflections and commentary, the book is disjointed and hard to follow. She bounces around from present to past and back again, making it difficult to follow the narrative. It’s frustrating because it is difficult to get a sense of not only her relationship with her brother, but a sense of who she and her brother are.

Click on over to read more.  But perhaps for a more positive review check out Sam at Book Chase who really enjoyed it.  I guess this one just wasn’t for me.  Maybe you’ll feel differently.

Video of Marie Brenner talking about Apples and Oranges:  My Brother and Me, Lost and Found:


  1. My experience with this book was similar to yours and Melissa’s. I just couldn’t warm up to it until about 3/4 of the way though – it was frustrating.

    My review:

    on November 30th, 2008 at 10:16 pm
  2. I often wonder how two children with the same parents can end up so different. But this book doesn’t sound like it would be to my liking.

    My brother and I fought like crazy, but we get along now. Maybe because we just grew up? We went for a period of like a year where we never spoke to each other.

    I just don’t see where you would have enough substance with this subject to be entertaining. Maybe I’m not being fair, since I haven’t read it, and therefore cannot have an opinion about it. I can say nothing about any of the reviews, including the publisher’s synopsis and the positive review make me want to read it.

    I do appreciate you giving us the other opinions, Natasha. Not everyone looks at the same book the same way. I love how fair you are with your reviews.

    on November 30th, 2008 at 10:58 pm
  3. Florinda – Thanks for the link to your review. Seems to be the consensus on this one.

    Jenn – I am one of six siblings and we are all so different. It is easy to see in some ways. There is a 16 year difference between my oldest sister and I and 8 years between me and the next oldest. When I was twelve, my parents moved out of state with me and my little brother (18 months apart). My older siblings were all married by then. We were like a second family. Ironically, it’s me and my little brother who don’t get along very well. We don’t speak often not on purpose but perhaps because we have nothing in common (like our author here). I’ve now moved back to the same state as my older siblings and we’ve spent the past ten years getting to know each other again.

    on December 1st, 2008 at 12:32 am

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