NEXT OF KIN by Marianne Langer Zeitlin (Zephyr Press: $18.95; 188 pp.) . After the death of her sister Esther by a drunk-driving accident, Sarah attempts to dilute the pain of the necessary rituals by reliving key moments from her history. At first glance, Esther, a Canadian Orthodox Jew from a family of rabbis, led an unremarkable life. Yet as the flotsam of her existence is exposed, and we see how shaken and lost her siblings, spouse and offspring are without her vitality, Sarah’s (and author Zeitlin’s) point becomes clear; her life must not be reduced to a statistic. Though official channels may indicate otherwise, Esther Persky was a person, devout, imperfect and treasured, and her family will never forget, nor allow her impact on their world to be diminished by bureaucratic indifference. Wrenching in its sorrow, combined with the casually integrated Jewish customs that provide a center for both family and novel, Sarah’s tale becomes a benediction for Esther, and her memorial.