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The Sisters: A Novel (Reading Group Gold) by…

The Sisters: A Novel (Reading Group Gold) (edition 2012)

by Nancy Jensen

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2362948,914 (3.38)12
Title:The Sisters: A Novel (Reading Group Gold)
Authors:Nancy Jensen
Info:St. Martin's Griffin (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Sisters by Nancy Jensen



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I liked the idea of this book much more than the execution. Following two sisters from adolescence through old age--this is the kind of family saga I usually like, and exactly what I was in the mood to read. But the jumping around among characters and time periods was disorienting, and in the second half of the book I kept losing track of exactly who Lynn and Grace and Rainey were. Adding to this confusion was the fact that none of the sections had distinctive voices; pick a random paragraph from any point in the book and you would be hard-pressed to say whose chapter it was.

The relationship between Rainey and Lynn and Carl was not handled well and I was never entirely sure what the author was trying to say about Carl.

The only character that really interested me was Mabel, and I was somewhat frustrated with her plot points -- neither her actions in the first chapter nor the way she became a mother made much sense to me. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
I couldn't finish this book, even tho I enjoyed the authors style. It tells the tale of two girls left with their stepfather after their mothers death. The story moves between the lives of the sisters, and describes the unhappiness of their lives, carried on thro multiple generations. I kept looking for an optimistic character, but stopped listening part way through the book. Too depressing. ( )
  Pmaurer | Sep 23, 2016 |
I listened to the audio version of this book. I had to really concentrate at the beginning of the chapters as the narrator of that chapter changed and the dates jumped. This book starts in the 1920's with Mable and Bertie, two sisters who have a miss-communications and end up spending a lifetime apart. This book is generational, going from Bertie and Mable's children, to their grandchildren. I found it a depressing book, with lots of regret and anger. I didn't like how it ended in the fact it didn't have the outcome I wanted it to have. It was well written and Nancy Jensen is a good writer. I just didn't like how bleak it was. ( )
  MHanover10 | Jul 10, 2016 |
In the early 1920's, sisters Mabel and Bertie Fischer are left alone with their cruel step-father, Jim Butcher, after their mother dies in childbirth. As the girls became teenagers, Butcher's eyes fell on the beautiful Mabel who endured his advances to keep him away from her younger sister. On the day of Bertie's 8th grade graduation, Mabel and Bertie's boyfriend Wallace, devised an elaborate plan to escape the clutches of Jim Butcher. Unfortunately, the plan went awry, separating the sisters from one another due to a horrible misunderstanding. Thus begins a multi-generational story of estrangements between mothers and daughters, between sisters, and the search for love that should be so easy to grasp but is always just out of reach.

Bertie marries a hardworking man named Hans and has two daughters, Alma and Rainey. Alma is an excellent student and craves a life far removed from the poverty-stricken home in which she grew up. It seems her prayers are answered when she marries Gordon, a doctor and son of wealthy parents but although she has respect, dignity and the envy of many women, her marriage is a shell and her son, Milton, is exactly like his cold father. Rainey impulsively marries Carl at age 18 when she becomes pregnant with her first child, Lynn, but leaves him just as impulsively when she learns a secret that Carl has tried to hide from everyone. A short affair with another man produces Rainey's second child, Grace. Alma and Rainey, so different from one another, are never close and the next generation of Lynn and Grace fare no better in the sisterly love department.

Mabel became an accomplished photographer, first working for a newspaper and then working on her own. She unofficially adopted a young girl named Daisy who was in the same unfortunate position Mabel had been in as a young girl. Through the years Mabel had tried to contact Bertie but Bertie refused to read any of her letters and burned them when she received them. Hoping to put an end to any communication she scribbles "deceased" on the last envelope and returns it to Mabel. Although Mabel believes that Bertie herself might have written the words, she accepts the estrangement as permanent.

This is a difficult book to rate as I do like Jensen's writing quite a bit. The chapters are short, each focusing on one or another of the female characters. For the most part the characters are quite well drawn but Mabel's daughter and granddaughter are lost in the stories of Bertie's family. I kept hoping that somewhere through the years one of these women would have a happy life and be able to turn to her sister or mother and say "I love you". It is a very interesting story but not a satisfying one. ( )
  Ellen_R | Apr 2, 2016 |
The Sisters is a heartbreaking novel about sisters, living in the 1920’s in Kentucky and begins with a tragic misunderstanding between them. This continues through the generations due to secrets, and lying back and forth from one generation to another. Each have their own set of circumstances and how they cope and deal with choices whether strong or weak, or to forgive or not.

Mabel, the older works hard to protect her little sister (in so many ways). Of course, in those days and times, no one talked about taboo subjects. Women relied upon themselves to find ways to cope, or deal with these horrible issues.

Mabel, secretively plans to leave home and escape their monstrous stepfather. However, stepfather is found dead. Mabel and Wallace vanish. Bertie assumes she has been betrayed. The sisters are lost to each other.

There are some tough topics such as sexual abuse and hardships, heartache, and tragedy. Ultimately these women have do decide, if they can learn from their mistakes, forgive and start anew. It is sad to think many women had to experience such abuse through the Depression and War times, and continue to hide their pain.

"Whatever we carry inside us shapes everyone we touch,” one character concludes. It is quite fitting which demonstrates how the forces of love and hope inevitably bind families together, and how each human life emerges “out of the ashes of so many” who have gone before.

Heartbreaking at times and also heartwarming, a compelling saga about an imperfect family, sisters, regret, and acceptance.

I listened to the audio version; so may have enjoyed more by reading the book. The narrator,(Cassandra Campbell) however, did a good job with the characters.
( )
  JudithDCollins | Nov 26, 2014 |
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"Set against the dramatic backdrop of American history from the Great Depression into the 21st century, this beautiful but disturbing debut novel, inspired partly by the author's own family history, will engage readers of well-written, thought-provoking women's fiction."
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Andrea Kempf (Nov 1, 2011)
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…I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
- W. B. Yeats

We always keep the dearest things to ourselves.
- James Joyce
For my mother, my mooring
First words
It was a lovely dress, soft and pink as a cloud at dawn.
Millions of years of human life, and still there was no more arduous battle than crossing the border into someone else’s heart. Or to stand aside and wave him across your own. Maybe it wasn’t possible to know another person, not entirely. Maybe it wasn’t possible to do more than show the desire to now, offering some sort of symbol, creating touchstone.
They had all been raised up on secrets, things never expressed but linked through time to all the other members. . . . the tangled secrets and what they had wrought.
Whatever we carry inside us shapes everyone we touch.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312542704, Hardcover)

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.  

Gorgeously written, with extraordinary insight and emotional truth, Nancy Jensen’s powerful debut novel illuminates the far-reaching power of family and family secrets.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:29 -0400)

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Growing up motherless and under the thumb of a cruel stepfather in hardscrabble 1920s Kentucky, Bertie Fisher and her older sister, Mabel, are torn apart by a painful misunderstanding that reverberates through the lives of their daughters and granddaughters.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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