The thief and the New Yorker writer

Lots of families have children who are successes and children who are disappointments. Rarely are those differences as extreme as with the Geng siblings. In the memoir Thick as Thieves (out today), Steve Geng grippingly recounts his descent into the New York underworld of the ’60s and ’70s — which coincided with his big sister Veronica’s becoming a beloved editor and brilliant humor writer at The New Yorker.

The book’s power comes from Steve Geng’s evident desire to connect with a sister he never really understood. They were fleeing a difficult childhood in divergent ways, but both of their paths proved traumatic. Veronica suffered from loneliness and insecurity, and in her 50s had to face terminal illness. Steve grappled with addiction, jail, and a girlfriend who had him beaten almost to death.

Steve clearly adored his big sister, but the contrasts of their lives kept them apart — he didn’t even know she was afflicted with the brain tumor that finally killed her in 1997. His examination of his own failures in their relationship is touching, and regretfully wise.

BUY Thick as Thieves: A Brother, a Sister — a True Story of Two Turbulent Lives (Henry Holt and Co.; 304 pages; hardcover)

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The thief and the New Yorker writer