Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 06/06/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/06/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Berniece and Mona Rae Miracle

THE CURSE OF A CELEBRATED SIBLING

"MY EARLIEST MEMORY OF MY AUNT Norma Jeane was the scent of her," says Mona Rae Miracle, 54. "It was sweet, like a piece of fresh fruit." That was 1944. Norma Jeane, then 18, had taken a leave from her wartime job at an L.A. parachute factory and traveled to Detroit to meet her only sister for the first time. "She was just so pretty that day," Berniece remembers. "It was like finding that you had gotten the very thing you had always wanted for Christmas."

Early in her career, when Monroe asked Miracle never to talk to the press, Berniece "promised on my word of honor," though she admits that "it's been difficult to have to be on guard all these years."

To fend off snoopy reporters—one posed as a policeman, another as a Masonic-lodge member like Berniece's husband, Paris, who worked in an electrical-supply house and died in 1989—the Miracles unlisted their phone number, installed a security system and built a fence around their Florida property. "You'd never know when a reporter or photographer was going to show up," says Berniece. "Once Paris pretended he was a mute, another time he said I was dead. Years later he still felt bad about that," she recalls. "Today I still get crazy letters from people claiming to be relatives. I just burn'em in my backyard barbecue."

Why break the silence now? "It's been a great source of sadness to see Marilyn's life distorted over the years," says Mona Rae, who spent 10 years working on the memoir with her mother. "It's lime we told the truth."

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