The Good Sister
by Sally Hepworth
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Number of Pages: 309
Source: Warren Public Library
Ages 16 and up
CW: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse
Read 6/8/21 to 6/11/21
From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern’s protector from the time they were small.
Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn’t realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.
This genre isn’t always my bag. When reading a thriller or mystery I often tend to worry too much about subtext and clues instead of sinking into the story and just enjoying the ride. I don’t do this purposely or with any real intent, it just happens. Therefore, it’ll take me longer to read and kind of steals my joy of reading. The whole escape aspect of diving into a book. While I still found myself doing that with this book, it still kept me quite engaged throughout.
I hate having spoilers in my reviews and that is extremely hard to do when talking about this type of book. I’ll do my best.
Fern and Rose are so well fleshed out by the author. I really felt I got to know them and even maybe understand them both. Maybe it’s because I feel I actually have people in my life that resemble them both in their personalities. Most likely it’s as simple as the author doing a beautiful job in the realm of character development. Not just with the sisters, but with the other people in their world.
As a die-hard romance fan, I was happy to find a bit or romance in this story. For those who think they don’t like romance, I promise you it’s there for a purpose. The relationship helps to drive this story forward without taking over the plot.
I loved Fern’s love for the library. Her approach to some things is a bit different, but she’s very passionate about her job and her books. The author does such a good job helping the reader to hear Fern’s voice so by the end there is no doubt as to who she is as a person.
Any older sibling knows what it’s like to be in Rose’s shoes. She may be overbearing and controlling at times, but she knows how to get things done. Whether that’s with her sister now as adults and helping her navigate the world, or when they were kids and she was Fern’s protector. It’s easy to sympathize with Rose and feel her frustration.
This story unfolds in such an interesting way; Fern giving us glimpses of the present day while Rose’s diary gives us insights into the past as well as the present. The pieces start to fall together and reveal a picture that may not be wanted or expected.
Although this isn’t my usual genre, I would be interested in reading more by this author. This was a pick from my book club and although I found the description interesting, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up on my own. I’m glad to have been taken out of my usual box for a bit.
Everyone that was able to make it to our Zoom book club meeting expressed that they enjoyed this book. What I found interesting is that while half of us had things “figured out” pretty quickly, the other half was taken by surprise. It’s always fascinating to me how different readers pick up different aspects of a story and don’t see others. Rest assured, even those of us who understood the direction this story was taking still thought this was a good book. There was an agreement on the author’s rhythm and pacing for the most part. Although most of us agreed that the author could have ended the book a chapter soon than she did.
While it wasn’t something that stood out to me, both the teacher and nurse in our group pointed out the stereotypical way Fern was portrayed. Once it was discussed, I couldn’t unsee the issue. I honestly don’t know how big of an issue this will be for other readers. I’m thinking if you have a Fern in your life it will bother you more than others. This is surely the case of a writer having to do more research to elevate her story. While it’s a great book, it could have been better.
All in all, I’d say this is an excellent pick for a book club. There is much to discuss and it’s the type of story that has scenes that can be interpreted in different ways, making the discussions that much richer.
Our next book club will be by Zoom once again. Although it is most likely safe for us to gather, we’ve found it easier to meet via Zoom so we can do a week night and not be limited to the weekend. Plus, my sister in Arizona has re-joined the book club (The Good Sister was her pick) since there isn’t a geographical problem anymore. We are reading Educated by Tara Westover and will be meeting on Tuesday, August 3. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Educated if you’ve read it already.