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Diane Keaton's brother, his mental illness focus of her new memoir

By all outward appearance, Diane Keaton’s upbringing was storybook perfect. The four children of Jack and Dorothy Hall – three girls and one boy – lived a comfy post-WWII middle-class life in a four-bedroom Southern California tract house with their civil engineer father and homemaker mother. Summers, the family piled into their station wagon and camped at Huntington Beach.

Keaton thrived, obviously, becoming an Academy Award-winning actress, fashion icon, photographer, real estate developer and memoirist, among other achievements. But not all the Hall children were so blessed.

In her new memoir, “Brother & Sister” (Knopf, out Feb. 4), Keaton, 74, examines her upbringing with her only brother, Randy Hall, 71, and tries to make sense of how their paths diverged, why he led “a life lived on the other side of normal.”

While Keaton was traveling the world and making movies, Randy was living in self-imposed exile and squalor, suffering violent fantasies and drinking himself into liver failure. It’s a raw, often difficult read, one that Keaton hopes will help to destigmatize serious mental illness and encourage families to discuss their experiences more openly.

Diane Keaton and brother Randy Hall as children.

“I think a lot of families go through this, and it’s sort of unwritten and unexplored,” Keaton says in an interview with USA TODAY. “And why shouldn’t it be explored? That I think is my question. Why didn’t I explore it more, why did I explore it too late?”

Keaton credits her mother with her own late-in-life pivot to writing. Dorothy Hall was the family archivist, documenting every achievement in letters, diaries and scrapbooks. After she died in 2008, that family archive would serve as the basis for Keaton’s first memoir, 2011’s best-selling “Then Again,” which spent six weeks on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list, peaking at No. 31. 

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