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Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo
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Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  152 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Only children don’t have to share bedrooms, toys, or the backseat of a car. They don’t have to share allowances, inheritances, or their parents’ attention. But when they get into trouble, they can’t just blame their imaginary friends. In Only Child, twenty-one acclaimed writers tell the truth about life without siblings—the bliss of solitude, the ache of loneliness, and ev ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Harmony (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30)
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Feb 13, 2008 doreen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: only children, those who want to know what makes onlies tick
Shelves: memoir, collections
This was a wonderful collection of essays to read. As a "lonely only," I found myself being able to relate at least on some level with many (though not all) of the contributors of this collection.

Some recollections and writing would draw me to tears, some would make me smile. All of them were genuine, although some I related better to than others. Molly Jong-Fast's submission was interesting, but her childhood was very different, and her view as being the only child her parents had together was
Mar 17, 2010 Heidi rated it it was ok
As the parent of a possible only child, I am very eager to hear from only children about their lives and experiences. This sounded like an ideal read. However, I found most of the writers to be too similar, and their stories to be like anyone's childhood stories (and rather depressing as a whole.) But then I realized that maybe that's the point. Being an only child isn't a person's sole identity, just as having siblings defines only a small part of me.
Due to the depressive nature of the stories
Mar 03, 2008 Danine rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Onlies
I happen to hold a membership card for the only child club. It was refreshing to discover what other onlies thought about growing up as only children. Some loved it and some hated it. I fit into the category of I rather enjoyed it. I don't know what it's like to grow up with siblings so I don't know if it would have been better or worse. Others in this book acknowledged the topic. I did notice a lot of the authors mentioned they read a lot of books as children and I loved reading that! I had thr ...more
Jan 15, 2010 Tracyj rated it liked it
Some stories were better than others. I really didn't feel this dealt with being an only child as much as the writer's relationship with their parent/parents. I'm raising an only child and I felt this gave me a little bit of insight into what she may be experiencing, but not much.
Couldn't finish this one. The writing was too pretentious and a lot of the stories felt unfinished. I guess I'll have to look elsewhere for relatable only-child non-fiction.
For the most part, every firstborn spent some portion of his or her life as an only child. Some - like me, just 19 months older than my sister - don't remember much about that time; others, like my stepdaughter, who is five years older than her brother, recall it well. (And a few of us have probably taunted our younger siblings at least once or twice with the fact that we were here first...) And then there are those like my son, who has remained an only child for nearly 24 years; the younger ste ...more
Nov 02, 2011 Kate rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2011
"In this collection of original, frank, personal accounts, twenty-one of today's most celebrated writers -- all of them only children -- reveal the pleasures, peculiarities, and pain they faced growing up, and growing older, without siblings. More than just stories of head counts and birth order, these essays air the dirty laundry, reveal the singular joys, and grapple with questions of love, loss, and solitude. The authors will make other onlies grin and grimace in recognition and show the rest ...more
Jan 11, 2016 Benjamin rated it liked it
I really wanted to enjoy this more than I did. It is important to note that I tried to get through the book, but could not finish because each of the stories didn't explore in depth the reasoning for specific behaviours of the onlies, and rather just touched the surface with very detailed information for setting the context of specific events in their lives. These events, however, are not really conclusive, and are rather just splattered throughout each chapter, leaving a more open-ended analysi ...more
Apr 14, 2012 Corrinne rated it it was amazing
For the first time in my life I finally felt like someone understood me. All of my friends have siblings, and I am the only person in my family who is an only child. So I never really knew how other only-childern felt, and I actually did not really think about it much until I read this book. Now I did not identify with every short story in here, but a few of them hit home pretty hard. This is a great book for anyone wanting to know what it feels like at times to be an only child...We are not all ...more
Crystal Falconer
Jul 24, 2012 Crystal Falconer rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this collection of essays about growing up an only child. Many different writers from very different backgrounds have come together to tell a story about a defining moment in only-child-dom and how growing up without siblings affected them each, making them who they are today. Each chapter has it's own personality, and there are sad and happy tales, but I enjoyed every one of them. I almost never pick up non-fiction and this one just sucked me in (I'm trying to branch out a li ...more
Jul 29, 2016 Jessie rated it it was ok
I can't claim to have really read this, because some of the essays were so insufferable I skipped over them. They could have been subtitled: "Affluent people whine about their childhoods."
There were a few really standout essays--the one by John Hodgman (which was why I read the book) about why he feels he must have a second child due to his singleton childhood is absolutely hilarious. Teller's is also a nice look at a very close knit family as the parents age and begin to need his help more and
Jan 21, 2009 Stefanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
It was really great to read so many perspectives on being an only child. It also gave me some insight into my own life and some of the reasons I do/have done the things I do. There was a lot of discussion on the issue of only children wanting to have more than one child and the reasons behind it and it was reassuring to know that I am not alone in this desire ... nor the fears that I wouldn't be able to be a proper parent because I don't understand sibling relationships. But at the end it was ju ...more
Oct 03, 2007 Sundry rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I had high hopes for this collection, but they didn't really pay off. Bought it on a whim at an independent bookstore that's affiliated with Aroma Coffee House in Studio City. It was part of a lovely afternoon of writing and browsing before a writing group meeting, but that's about as far as it went.

I don't know why, but the writing just didn't grab me and it took me a long time to get through the book. I guess I'm still in rebound from _Food and Booze_, which entirely enchanted and thrilled me.
Jan 14, 2008 Michelle rated it liked it
As an only, I looked forward to this book hoping for some sort of camaraderie with the authors, I suppose. All in all it was a quick and pleasant read, arguably the best story was last (Teller's).

What surprised me were those stories of onlies who were clearly not happy with the situation. Since my own background was really positive, I found myself shaking my head, saying, what's not to like?

Fun for its range and diversity of experiences, and it was good to see some stories from people who ende
Jean Godwin Carroll
As I struggled with whether or not to have a second child, I tried to get my hands on everything I could read about only children. This collection of essays was an interesting perspective on how some adult onlies felt about growing up without siblings. I can't say that this book helped with my decision to have just one child, since everyone's experience is unique - and that goes for children who grow up with siblings, just as much as without siblings. Yet I very much enjoyed reading these variou ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Ami rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
I nodded a lot in recognition of seeing some of my experiences as an only child reflected, and I was amazed at the diversity in family structure in the essayists. Some folks hated being an only child, and some folks loved it. The authors wrote essays about growing up as an only, how it affected their relationships and family planning choices, and how only children are affected by the end of their parents' lives.
Jan 18, 2013 Shannon rated it liked it
I was hoping this collection of short essays would help push me one way or the other on the whole "should we have a second child debate". So by that standard, it is a total failure. However, a few of the essays are a great read. The best of the lot is John Hodgeman's essay "Apologia to My Second Child", which manages to finely balance humour and seriousness. The whole of that essay can be found on
Sushud82 Hudson
Sep 19, 2012 Sushud82 Hudson rated it liked it
I enjoyed gaining new perspective on only children, but I felt like the theme of each story was so similar the book felt a bit redundant. Friends = Family, Parents are BFFs, Like being alone, etc. A lot of the voices were similar as well. I don't know if this was a result of the editors not straying far from their own circles or because only children tend to gravitate towards certain ideologies. My favorite stories were by John Hodgman, Kathryn Harris, Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, and Teller.
Sep 30, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing
I'm a only child. I enjoyed this book. Many of the writers had something in common with my experience. Unlike some of the writers I never liked being a only. I didn't stop wishing for a sibling until it was too late to hope for one. I never even got a step sibling because when my mom remarried- it was to someone with no children! My children think I overcompensated for being a only. I had nine children.
Sarah B
Sep 10, 2016 Sarah B rated it liked it
Shelves: 35-books
As the wife of an only and the mother of a probably-only, I enjoyed this book. It was interesting to get the perspectives of different aspects of being an only. From growing up with all of the attention (for good or for bad) to being the only child to mourn your parents. Not something that I have really thought about. It definitely brought some insight to my boys, but really brought home how individual all of our experiences are.
Nov 20, 2010 elise rated it liked it
I stopped reading it, it got boring. The stories were interesting and made it clear to me that being an only child is not bad if you have good boundaries with your child. Maybe also that even though I have a brother and a sister - emotionally speaking, I grew up and still am an only child and it's not so bad.
Jessica Baxter
Jul 25, 2007 Jessica Baxter rated it it was amazing
if you are an only child then you have no choice but to read this collection of essays. some of them are funny, some of them are devastating, and all of them are immensely readable and beautifully written. it leaves you with a sense of community, a sense of relief that even if you dont have siblings you arent alone. sounds cheesy but its true.
Oct 04, 2009 Janie rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, shorts
A few funny pieces, several dismal only-child memories, but no lingering insights.

I've come across several compilations of this ilk: pieces gathered from writers invited to pontificate on a particular topic, ending up as a fine creative writing hodgepodge but not as a strong contribution to the topic.
Mar 08, 2013 Claudia rated it liked it
I thought I would relate more to the stories in this book. Only minor parts of the stories reminded me of my upbringing. Then again, we are all unique in our own ways. The last short story was especially my favorite!
There were some interesting essays in here, including one by John Hodgman and another by Teller (of Penn and Teller), but I wish that there had been more variety in the contributors, in terms of age, cultural background and socio-economic status.
Mar 24, 2010 Lara rated it really liked it
I could relate to so much within these pages: the neccesity of solitude, the intensity of parent-child relationships, the gravity of being the pointed end of the family emotionally honest and thoughtfully arranged collection of essays.
May 21, 2009 Meadow rated it it was amazing
A bunch of essays written by only children. It was excellent. I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it doesn't matter if I only have one kid or more than one kid. A lot is going to depend on my kid and who she is and how we raise her.

Man, I hope I raise her right...
Oct 03, 2015 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this collection of essays. As an only child, I saw aspects of my self and my own childhood in most of these essays.
Rebecca Dougherty
Rebecca Dougherty rated it liked it
Oct 03, 2013
Melissa rated it liked it
Jul 07, 2007
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