McGuffy Ann, August 5, 2012 (view all comments by McGuffy Ann)
This novel begins in 1920s Kentucky. It spans the lives of two very different sisters, who take very different paths through life. Each sister has a pair of daughters. As their story unfolds, it also tells the stories of their daughters.
Each woman in this multi-generational novel has their own set of circumstances, based both upon their environment and the choices they make. They each have definite strengths and weaknesses. Some of the women are strong in moral and character, yet some are strong willed and rigid.
There is a definite difference between strength and stubbornness. As a woman raised by women of these varied traits, I found this to be a particularly interesting portrait of a family of such women.
Nancy Jensen has exceptional insight into the emotions and personal burdens of the women. She understands the bonds that hold them together, but also cause them to strain at the bindings.
Each sister walks a different road, but within the same map of life. The roads intersect, intertwine, taking them to different places that the others could never understand.
In life, the things that happen to us become a part of us, but the things we choose we become a part of. Sometimes we have to forgive others to go on. Sometimes we need to be forgiven. Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves.
St. Martin's Press -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"First-time novelist Jensen redeems her soap opera plot — tracing the lives of two sisters separated in their youth by a tragic misunderstanding — with an observant eye, adept characterization, and a keen grasp of social issues. When 19-year-old Mabel Fischer realizes that their predatory stepfather, who has repeatedly raped and humiliated her, has designs on her younger sister, Bertie, she escapes smalltown Juniper, Ky., in 1927, with Bertie in tow. The escape plan goes awry, sundering the sisters' lives and leaving Bertie with what seems like a double betrayal. Bertie marries, but her union is marred by bitterness and the coldness she shows to her two daughters. And Mabel, who doesn't marry, kidnaps and keeps a child who has been sexually abused. In alternating chapters, Jensen chronicles the difficult, often traumatic lives of four generations of women who descend from the Fischer sisters. There's plenty of drama, much of it illuminating the changing roles of women in society over a span of 70 years. Jensen nicely integrates history and themes such as the enduring ravages of war on men who fight. While the legacy of Mabel's courageous sacrifice and Bertie's barely suppressed anger is 'a map of sadness and loss,' it's brightened by their resilience and the promise seen in the youngest members of the family." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In the tradition of Marilynne Robinsons Housekeeping and Elizabeth Strouts Olive Kitteridge,
a dazzling debut novel about the family bonds that remain even when they seem irretrievably torn apart.
Family secrets reverberate for generations in one of the "Best Novels of 2011" (Kirkus Reviews)
Growing up without a mother in hardscrabble Kentucky in the 1920s, Bertie Fischer and her older sister, Mabel, have only each other—with perhaps a sweetheart for Bertie waiting in the wings. But on the day that Bertie graduates from eighth grade, good intentions go terribly wrong, setting off a chain of misunderstandings that will change the lives of the next three generations.
What happens when nothing turns out as you planned? From the Depression through the second world war and Vietnam, and smaller events both tragic and joyful, Bertie and Mabel forge unexpected identities that are shaped by a past that no one ever talks about. Gorgeously written, with extraordinary insight and emotional truth, Nancy Jensens brilliant first novel, The Sisters, illuminates the far-reaching power of family and family secrets.
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