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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

February 25, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

THE ACCIDENTAL BOND: The Power of Sibling Relationships by Susan Scarf Merrell (Times Books: $23; 303 pp.). Speaking of relationships, here is a book that describes many of the forms the sibling bond can take. Merrell explores the necessary process of "deidification," the manner in which family members divide up personality characteristics so that competition between any two children is eliminated, or at least reduced to manageable levels. The book is unusual in that it focuses almost exclusively on the sibling bond within a family context but not necessarily dependent on the parents. Certainly these relationships can have as powerful an effect on the growth of the individual as the parent-child bond. Merrell reminds the reader that these relationships "always begin in an anguish of loss and resentment," indeed, while the assumption is that siblings are always there for each other, few seem eager to test this assumption. It's a level-headed book, structured by astonishingly well-written, detailed interviews with eight sets of siblings, but the suggestions in the end for improving sibling relationships seem a bit cursory: "Put the past in the past." "Be honest but not hurtful." "Try to connect with your siblings." OK. Will do.

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