I’ve always had a special spot in my heart for books about the bonds between sisters. (This preference stems from the fact that I have two younger sisters, but don’t tell them that!) Unfortunately, most books about such bonds are incredibly sad; take My Sister’s Keeper and Just Like Her as examples. The Good Sister is just as poignant and heartbreaking, though Sarah’s death occurs before the novel starts.
The Kinsey sisters have never lived a typical life, as their small Northern California town is filled with free spirits, like their parents, escaping the real world. Without the anchor of authority, the three girls rely mainly on each other. Rachel is wild, Asha is lost, and Sarah– the good sister– holds them together. But when Sarah dies in a sudden accident, her already fractured family is sent into a “tailspin” of confusion and heartbreak. Asha has questions, Rachel has secrets, and Sarah must piece together in the afterlife why the hell she’s there. (Terrible pun, and just for the record, Sarah is not in hell. Just be glad I’m not making any jokes about The Good Wife.)
I read The Good Sister during finals week, which in retrospect happened to be the worst decision I made that week. The Good Sister is consuming; each sister has a distinct personality. Asha’s sharp and at times violent, but her passages are poignant as well. Rachel was less so, being the middle sister and all. Asha and Rachel individually struggle to come to terms with Sarah’s death, a jarring process. Jamie Kain writes it so that the sisters’ narrations are intoxicating, heart wrenching, and incredibly real. Yet Sarah’s story is perhaps most raw. She must come to terms with what she did (read The Good Sister to find out!), and her reflections along the way are well-written and raw.
All authors are writers, but not all authors are storytellers. Sometimes the stories control the author, but Jamie Kain shows that she can hold onto the story and weave it into something more. She turns a slow plot into something tolerable and makes the ending pack such an emotional punch (I actually shed a few tears). Not only that, but Kain also writes the most gorgeous prose:
Memory is that trick by which we see the awful events of the past loom over the good, like mountains over mouse. We don’t recall life as it was. Instead, we remember what was different, frightening, or strange, and we turn our lives into the fun-house mirror images of the truth.
The Good Sister is a genuinely good novel; in fact, it’s a fucking great novel.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (October 7th, 2014)
Length: 304 pages (Hardcover)