Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: The Sisters by Nancy Jensen

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website

In the tradition of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a dazzling debut novel about the family bonds that remain even when they seem irretrievably torn apart.
Growing up in hardscrabble Kentucky in the 1920s, with their mother dead and their stepfather an ever-present threat, Bertie Fischer and her older sister Mabel have no one but each other—with perhaps a sweetheart for Bertie waiting in the wings. But on the day that Bertie receives her eighth-grade diploma, good intentions go terribly wrong. A choice made in desperate haste sets off a chain of misunderstandings that will divide the sisters and reverberate through three generations of women.

What happens when nothing turns out as you planned? From the Depression through World War II and Vietnam, and smaller events both tragic and joyful, Bertie and Mabel forge unexpected identities that are shaped by unspeakable secrets. As the sisters have daughters and granddaughters of their own, they discover that both love and betrayal are even more complicated than they seem.  

My Review:
I love stories that follow women's lives over not only their lifetimes, but even the lifetimes of their children.  Not only does Jensen accomplish this within the pages of this book, but she also brings to life a third generation of the family.  The story opens in Juniper, Kentucky, and the year is 1927.  Bertie and Mabel are left living with their stepfather after their mother's passing and the sisters plan to get as far away from there as possible when the opportunity arises.

The stories alternate between perspectives of Bertie and Mabel, until their children become main characters and we see things from a whole new light.  And then when these ladies grandchildren are introduced we are given a whole new set of problems.

Early on in the novel the girls are separated from most unfortunate circumstances sending their lives in different directions.  They make the best of their lives, raising their families the best way they know how.  Unfortunately, Bertie has harbored her anger for so long, this attitude seeps through her everyday life, and eventually rubbing off onto her children.

I really don't want to give too much of this book away, as it was enjoyable the way events unfolded.  My main complaint about this book was the multiple characters we were introduced to.  Between Bertie and Mabels' children and grandchildren it was tough to keep them all straight.  The author did include a family tree in the beginning that was quite helpful, but while reading the Kindle version I probably didn't use this tool as much as others may have.  I think I would have enjoyed knowing more about Bertie and Mabel, rather than having little snippets of multiple characters.

I did enjoy the novel overall and most of my book club did also.  With themes of family, resentment, and truth, you may enjoy this book also.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:   This book is from my personal library and I read it for my own entertainment and as a book club discussion. 


Anonymous said...

Too many characters can muck things up. I love the cover.

Booksnyc said...

I find I don't use maps and family trees as much on a an e-reader because I haven't figured out an easy way to flip back to it. I love this cover too.

Great review!