The Sisters falls securely in the category of women’s fiction. When I first saw the cover and read the description, I doubted that it would have teen appeal. Still, it was vacation, I had time, I gave it a try.
The Sisters begins with a bang. It grabs the reader from the first chapter. And that first chapter lays out the misunderstanding between two teen sisters that is the foundation for the remainder of the novel.
Still, that’s hardly enough to guarantee teen appeal for a novel this long. As I kept reading, I noticed that most of the characters were introduced as teens. They and their stories were consistently interesting. There are a couple dry spots, but I can think of only one chapter that had no teen appeal, and it was close to the end. The momentum and emotional weight of the final few chapters will keep teens readers going. And it is a teenager, Bertie’s great granddaughter Taylor, who brings at least one side of the family of women together at the very end.
The first chapter is available on the author’s website.
Adult/High School–“Something can happen to change your life so sudden, you can’t get over it fast enough.” For Bertie that “something” takes place on the day of her high school graduation, the day her sister Mabel leaves town with Bertie’s boyfriend, the day their stepfather hangs himself in the barn. Mabel’s betrayal is in fact a horrible misunderstanding–all part of a plan to save Bertie from the abuse Mabel has been tolerating for too long. It shapes the rest of their lives and those of their daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. Spanning 1927 to 2007, rural Kentucky to Indiana and Ohio, each chapter focuses on a different character. The Sisters is constructed like a series of connected short stories, but is all the more powerful for the accumulation of back story and family history. Each woman in turn is affected by secrets and misunderstandings. Most are introduced at a young age and experience life-altering moments during their teen years. For Rainey it’s a teen pregnancy, for her daughter it’s losing all contact with her father after a custody battle. Grace is haunted by her mother’s refusal to tell her who her father is, and later falls in love with an older, damaged Vietnam vet. Throughout, the writing is strong and specific, painting a clear picture of each setting and bringing individual female characters and their motivations to life. Husbands and fathers are less well-formed. Recommend this to teens who enjoy intergenerational dramas, or novels of mothers and daughters.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City