"God, there's so much emotion to navigate where family is concerned... Vicodin, anyone?"
Sarah is Ruth's younger sister and, outside of her children and grandchild, her only living relative. A free spirit, Sarah lives a life very different from Ruth's: she's into Tai-chi, feng-shui and magic mushrooms; she's traveled the world and counts many important painters and writers among her friends. She once shared a flat in Berlin with Allen Ginsberg until she "got fed up with the parade of Aryan starfucker boys." Every year in her Topanga Canyon home, she honors her old flat-mate by hosting a "Howl weekend," an excuse for aging hippies to get together and read poetry, do drugs and dance naked in the great outdoors.
Until Sarah showed up on the Fishers' doorstep, she and Ruth hadn't seen each other for years. Claire, who'd never met Sarah, assumed from the way Ruth spoke about her, she was dead. In fact, Sarah' re-entry to the Fishers' lives was Ruth's doing - as a requirement of The Plan, Ruth had phoned her. (Sarah understood completely; she'd done The Plan herself in the 70's, "when it was still called 'Transitional Focus.'") In short order Sarah had unintentionally pushed just about every button Ruth has, by invading her kitchen and, even more galling, by forming an instant rapport with Claire.
Ruth's resentment goes even deeper. For one thing, Sarah facilitated Nate's first sexual experience, when he went to stay with her at age fifteen and was deflowered by one of her artist friends. For another, Ruth has always blamed Sarah for leaving her alone to take care of their invalid grandmother. The major source of Ruth's anger towards her sister is, simply, that she believes Sarah has had a better life than hers. When Sarah heard this, she set her sister straight, informing her to the contrary: she's childless, the love of her life is dead and she is only too aware that she has no artistic talent. On top of that, her recreational drug use turned into an addiction to Vicodin. (When she suffered the throes of withdrawal it was Ruth who tied her to her bed and saw her through it.) "It's all hard, Ruth," she once said to her sister, "We just made different choices."