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The Almost Sisters

by Joshilyn Jackson

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4925335,216 (4.12)50
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are. Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman. It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy--an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood. Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.… (more)

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4.5 stars.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson is a poignant and thought-provoking novel of secrets, complicated family relationships and the complexity of race relations the South today.

Just as Leia Birch Briggs is trying to figure how and when to break the news that she is going to become a single mom, her family begins imploding around her. Her "perfect" stepsister Rachel's marriage is in serious trouble but the biggest blow is the discovery that her beloved ninety year old grandmother Birchie is suffering from Lewy Body dementia. With her thirteen year old niece Lavender in tow, Leia heads to Alabama to help Birchie and her best friend Wattie Price put their affairs in order while (hopefully) convincing them to move into assisted living. However, a stunning discovery sets the town's tongues  a wagging and an unplanned pregnancy becomes the least of Leia's concerns as she tries to protect Birchie and Wattie from the repercussions from something that occurred in the very distant past.

Leia is a self-proclaimed nerd who successfully parlayed her love of superheroes and graphic novels into an extremely lucrative career. Her recent attendance at a comic book convention turned out to be a double-edged sword as she enjoys her still unbelievable success as the author of a wildly popular graphic novel while coming face to face with the life she could have been living if not for her fear of getting her heart broken again. This culminates in her out of character decision to drown her sorrows and indulge in a drunken one-night stand with a fan who Leia only knows as Batman (due to his cosplay costume).

Now trying to deal with the consequences of her actions, Leia has barely come to terms with her impending motherhood when she walks into Rachel's marital disaster. Their relationship is extremely complicated and she is at a loss at how to help Rachel since her stepsister never reveals any weakness to her. In fact, Rachel is typically a force to be reckoned with as she steamrolls her way into "fixing" Leia's problems.

Distraction arrives in the form of Birchie's very public meltdown and Leia knows it is past time for her to take a firm hand with Birchie and Wattie. She has barely unpacked when the situation with Birchie spirals out of control and Leia realizes her grandmother is harboring a secret that is much larger and more damaging than her impending motherhood.

With the small town divided along racial lines, Leia experiences an epiphany of sorts that provides her with an answer to a situation she has been wrestling with. It also opens her eyes to the truth about the underlying racial tensions that continue to plague the South in general and her grandmother's small town in particular. This shocking discovery also leads her to a complicated realization about Wattie that leaves in her a moral quandary about the increasingly complicated situation with her grandmother.

With an astute storyline, delightfully charming characters and a heartwarming small town setting, The Almost Sisters is a riveting novel of healing and new beginnings.  Joshilyn Jackson does not shy away from tough subject matter and she handles these difficult issues with humor, sensitivity and perceptive observations that will resonate with readers. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this incredibly entertaining, insightful and heartfelt story. ( )
  kbranfield | Feb 3, 2020 |
Almost Sisters brought moments of joy and compassion. Leia Birch Briggs returns home to Birchville, Alabama, to care for her paternal grandmother, Emily Birch Briggs. Birchie has many illnesses that lead her to say unexpected things, see imaginary rabbits, and forget herself. Leia must balance her new pregnancy, her step-sister’s shaky marriage, the huge house in Birchville, the contents of a hidden chest in the attic, and her new graphic novel contract. Jackson presents a novel brimming with comic cells, Southern charm, and small town prejudices. Will a biracial baby found love and acceptance in this closed community? I felt the story heartwarming, but the conclusions too easily drawn, because life is not that simple. ( )
  delphimo | Dec 20, 2019 |
This is my first novel by Joshilyn Jackson; it certainly will not be my last.

I picked up this book looking for a summer read that's pure chick lit. I got so much more. There was romance, marital troubles, and family support systems which are the trademark of what I think of as chick lit. But there was also humor, graphic novel writing, issues of race, and aging disease. The Almost Sisters takes a look at race in America but particularly in Alabama. This novel was so well written and considered that I hated reaching the end. ( )
  Nancyjcbs | Jun 16, 2019 |
This novel is her best one yet. ( )
  Cheryl.Russell | May 25, 2019 |
Wow! This book was not what I expected! And I mean that in the best possible way! I’d read and enjoyed previous books by Joshilyn Jackson, so as soon as I saw she had a new one, I was interested. And I expected to be entertained, so that wasn’t a surprise. What DID surprise me was how much depth the story had! I mean, if you only want to read it as a quick summer read, you can do that and enjoy it, and it won’t take you more than a couple of sittings to finish it!

But there is so much more going on in this book if you want to dig deeper. There is the story of 2 little old ladies who are best friends and protective of one another. There is the mystery of the bones in the long hidden trunk in the attic. There is the broken marriage and the teenage girl dealing with paternal abandonement. There is an unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand complete with biracial child. And the story even has Batman! Book clubs are going to love this one!

I really connected with the characters and cared what happened to them, especially Wattie and Birchie, the two little old ladies, and Leia and Batman. I also love the cover! It kept me guessing awhile though about the sisters on the cover. Are they the little old ladies in the youth, or Leia and her step-sister Rachel?

This will be a fun summer selection for books clubs with a plot that you can move through quickly to finish in a sitting or two, but enough depth to lead to interesting discussions!

Visit the publisher’s website to read an excerpt or download a reader’s guide. You can view a book trailer below.

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes. ( )
  Time2Read2 | Jan 26, 2019 |
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For Jacques de Spoelberch
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My son, Digby, began at exactly 3:02 in the morning on the first Friday in June.
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