By Nancy Jensen
Completed December 27, 2011
The Sisters is the debut novel by Nancy Jensen, and it explores the relationships of four generations of sisters during the 20th century. Each sister has her own story – often one of disfunction and abuse – which, when combined with the other tales, resulted in a novel of great sadness.
The stories begin with Mabel and Bertie, sisters who live in a small town in Kentucky. Mabel is the oldest and prettiest, but she’s sexually abused by her stepfather. Bertie is young and naive – but has a glimmer of hope in her future: a romantic relationship with a local boy, Wallace. Then, a certain turn of events occurs – a misunderstanding of sorts – and the sisters are forever separated, doomed to live lives of bitterness and lost hope.
The remaining stories are of Mabel and Bertie’s daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. Like a snowball effect, each story gets progressively more grim. The women endure abuse and promiscuity. They seem, in a word, hopeless. To say The Sisters was a bleak novel would be an understatement.
The shining star of The Sisters is the writer. Nancy Jensen is very talented, creating real-to-life characters and horrid circumstances that often turned my stomach. Yes, I wish there were more silver linings in this book, but even I realize that some women’s lives are not pictures of happiness. It’s tragic to see it generation after generation.
Unfortunately for me, I read The Sisters during Christmastime, so I was never in the correct mindset for such a depressing, but well-written book. If you decide to read this book, be prepared for a grim ride. I hope Jensen picks lighter fare for her next book. ( )
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.