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Sister Acts

Such Devoted Sisters  SC SUCH
Editor Shena Mackay has collected stories from earlier women writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Cynthia Rich, Bani Basu, Edna O’Brien and Sylvia Townsend Warner.  All the stories focus on (big surprise) sisters and the wide variety of their relationships with each other and the world around them.

Little Women Alcott, Louisa May
The March sisters must be the archetype for sisterly devotion.  The characters may be over 100 years old, but their lifelong affection for each other is still moving and their mishaps still amuse.

Claudia’s Shadow Allen, Charlotte Vale
Ever since her younger sister was born, Rowena has stood in her shadow.  Claudia was always able to manipulate her way to anything she craved, amoral and indifferent to the harm she inflicted.   Her death leaves Rowena heir to her estate and finally able to solve some old puzzles, stepping out of the shadows at last.

In the Time of the Butterflies: A Novel     Alvarez, Julia
In the Dominican Republic they are still revered as “the Butterflies” (Las Mariposas), revolutionary martyrs in the struggle against the Trujillo dictatorship.  But once they were just the Mirabal sisters, ordinary middle-class girls and it as these girls (and women) that they take turns to tell their story.

Ugly Ways  Ansa, Tina McElroy
Esther Lovejoy is dead and though she was never the model of a caring mother, all three of her daughters have returned home to Lovejoy, Georgia for her funeral. They may be high-powered women now, but here they are still just the girls, sharing problems, hopes and memories, accompanied by sardonic commentary from their mother’s ghost.

Sense and Sensibility Austen, Jane
Elinor is the eldest, full of common sense, and Marianne
is younger, brimming with poetic and romantic sensibilities.  They both love and exasperate each other, each so sure that she has the proper view of the world.   Somehow they manage to survive society’s pitfalls and dubious suitors, learn from each other, and even find unexpected happiness.

Matron of Honor  Bingham, Sally
It was typical of Cory, after claiming to be sick, to arrive the day before Apple’s wedding, having left the man her mother never wanted her to marry in the first place.  Neither of the Mason girls had ever measured up to their mother’s views on Southern Ladyhood.

Second Wives  Blake, Cindy
When their parents failed them the Preston sisters discovered that, at the cost of putting aside their childhood, they had the strength to care for each other and themselves.  As adults they still suffer from the emotional fallout but band together to protect Leo, the “baby” sister.

Winter Tides  Blaylock, James
Years ago, Dave Quinn was only able to save one of a pair of twin girls from drowning.  Years later Anne, the living twin, drifts back into his life, still haunted by the very real presence of the very angry ghost of the dead (but by no means gone) Elinor.

Black Trillium Bradley, Marion Zimmer; May, Julian; Norton, Andre
Three great writers join forces in this novel and its sequels, each speaking for one of three sisters, princesses who have inherited the responsibility to guard Ruwenda and the power of the Black Trillium. When their country is overrun and they are forced into exile, each must follow her own way and fight her own battles to gain the talismans that can free their land.

Six of One Brown, Rita Mae
In their own way they love each other, but Wheezie and Juts Hutsenmier are far more likely to enliven Runneymeade Virginia with their long-running feuds than present it with an example of sisterly devotion.  They stick together when it really counts, though, and they are only two of a group of, well, highly individualistic individuals in this little town.

So Far From God Castillo, Ana
La Loca (the crazy one) died and was resurrected at the age of 3.  She did miracles but couldn’t stand the smell of humans ever after.  Fe screamed for months after being jilted.  Caridad was brutally attacked and mutilated, healed by La Loca, and became clairvoyant.  Esmeralda was a famous prisoner of war in Saudi Arabia.  This is a funny magical realist telenovela, almost chatty in its tone.

The Purveyor of Enchantment Cobbold, Marika
Clementine was afraid of everything, a target of bullying and derision by all, including her younger sister Ophelia.  She hides in the house she inherited, finishing her aunt’s collection of fairy tales. When her fears precipitate a disaster she sets out to cure herself once and for all, finding new freedom and disconcerting those who preferred her more malleable self.

What Girls Learn: A Novel Cook, Karin
At age twelve, Tilden is entering puberty and coping with a precocious younger sister.  To add to the confusion, their mother fell in love and moved them all far from familiar surroundings.  The girls are still getting to know Nick when their mother’s breast cancer adds a new scary element, to which the girls react in different ways.

Juniper, Gentian & Rosemary Dean, Pamela
Once in a neighborhood of no special interest there lived three girls, each with her fancies and pursuits, and their parents.  Then a house grew up next door overnight-or so it seemed- and in it lived a mysterious and fascinating young man. Is he Prince Charming—or the Prince of Darkness?

Far From the Tree: A Novel      DeBerry, Virginia & Grant, Donna
Celeste and Ronnie are sisters, so different in many ways but for both a high-powered appearance hides fear and vulnerability, a talent learned from their mother and passed down to their daughters. Persisting too is a skill for and a love of cooking.  As these women gravitate back to the family home in Prosper, North Carolina, it is apparent that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree at all.

The Virgin Suicides Eugenides, Jeffrey
All girls were a mystery to our narrator and his buddies in their adolescence, the Lisbon sisters more than most.  Now an adult, he looks back with a mixture of tenderness, puzzlement, wry humor and regret on the slow implosion of the Lisbon family, gradually diminishing and withdrawing as the girls departed without explanation or farewell.

Murder on a Bad Hair Day George, Anne
Mary Alice (“Aunt Sister”) and Patricia Anne are respectable Southern ladies in their sixties, but they’re not slowing down.  An evening jaunt to a new gallery lands them right in the middle of murder when a gallery employee and former student of Patricia appears on her doorstep the next day.

The Slow Way Back: A Novel Goldman, Judy
Thea’s mother’s family was one in which “sisters matter more than anything” and Thea does love Mickey, even while resenting her bossiness.  When their aunt sends a pack of letters, written in Yiddish from their grandmother to her sister, the translations reveal long hidden family secrets.

Into the Forest Hegland, Jean
Nell and Eva were average girls with dreams of college and dancing.  First the power failed, then the trains stopped arriving, and their parents died one after the other.  As stored supplies ran out, they learned to make do and find new sources in the forest and new strengths in each other.

Sis Boom Bah Heller, Jane
Deborah and Sharon Pelz can’t be in the same room – or on the same continent – without squabbling.  When their exasperated mother forces them to call a truce after her heart attack, it lasts only until her handsome cardiologist walks into the room.  His murder forces a more sincere alliance: against the police.

Practical Magic Hoffman, Alice
The citizens of their hometown have always ostracized the Owens women, then crept out to their house at night to ask for love spells. Gillian and Sally were raised by their three aunts and observed their activities from the sidelines, while wishing to escape their reputation.

Animal Dreams Kingsolver, Barbara
Codi Noline has returned to her hometown, to old friends and lovers and a father fading away into Alzheimer’s disease. Codi’s memories are clear however, especially those of her sister Hallie, a peace worker who has been “disappeared”. As Codi waits for news, she sorts through the past and finds her place in the present, almost in spite of herself.

Patty Jane’s House of Curl Landvik, Lorna
Patty Jane and Harriet have had some wonderful times and some shattering losses, but never give up completely. Together they create Patty Jane’s House of Curl: a beauty parlor, yes, but one that features wonderful food, live harp music, “improving” lectures, and lots of love and compassion.

The Ladies Man Lipman, Elinor
Thirty years after Harvey Nash left Adele Dobbin (almost) at the altar, he appears on her doorstep only to be greeted by a flying casserole dish. Adele and her sisters have long memories.  So does Harvey and he’s (sort of) sincerely regretful: he genuinely loves ladies (all ladies) but just can’t bring himself to commit to one. He certainly brings new life and chaos into the lives of Lois, Adele and Kathleen.

Double Murder McCafferty, Barbara Taylor & Herald, Beverly Taylor
The authors are identical twins, as are danger-prone Nan and Bert Tatum.  Being mistaken for one another can have its drawbacks, such as having a murderer suspect you know more than you do.  On the other hand, it has its advantages, such as confusing kidnappers and faking out suspicious policemen.

Housekeeping Robinson, Marilynne
In language that is both dreamy and sharply perceptive, Ruth speaks of her family’s curious history, the habit people have of just sort of slipping away through either death or inadvertence. She and her sister Lucille hope the arrival of their Aunt Sylvie will bring comfort.  Instead, Sylvie brings a lifetime habit of transience into the house, finally forcing the two sisters, once so close, to make radically different choices.

Drowning Ruth Schwartz, Christine
What really happened that winter of 1919, when Amanda was out on the island with her sister Matilda and her niece Ruth? How did Mattie drown and why does Ruth insist that she too drowned? Only Amanda knows and she tells only what she chooses.

Hoopi Shoopi Donna      Shea, Suzanne Strempek
When Donna Milewski stood in their kitchen playing accordion for her father, all was right with the world.  But when tiny cousin Betty arrived from Poland to be Donna’s new sister, she became the focus of all the attention.  The accident and the misunderstandings that followed only made things worse as the family split apart and each sister followed a different path.

The Hundred Secret Senses  Tan, Amy
When Olivia was six, her adult half sister Kwan came from China and became Olivia’s caretaker.  With her “yin eyes” she can see ghosts, a notion regarded by Olivia with a skepticism that causes her to betray Kwan.  Thirty years later it is Kwan’s ghosts that hold an answer to Olivia’s problems.

The Spanish Lover Trollope, Joanna
Lizzie was the twin who had it all: family, home, successful business. Francis lived alone in a tiny apartment and kept her travel business afloat. Then Francis fell in love with a very married Spanish Catholic and moved to Spain, her glowing happiness a contrast to Lizzie’s despair over the growing problems in her own life and her anger with Francis for not staying where she expected her to be.

Night of Many Dreams Tsukiyama, Gail
This follows the stories of the Lew sisters of Hong Kong, Emma and Joan, between the years of 1940 and 1965.  Emma, the younger sister, followed her dreams to San Francisco, only to find the completion of them back in Hong Kong.  Joan chooses to live within a dream, becoming a Chinese movie actress.

Snow White and Rose Red Wrede, Patricia
Wrede recasts the old fairy tale in an Elizabethan mode, supplying excerpts from the original text.  We meet the widow Arden and her two daughters, trying to remain independent and skirting accusations of witchcraft.  This becomes more difficult when they meet Hugh and John, the two sons of the Queen of Fairy, who themselves are caught in the spells of Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly, magicians seeking a magical talisman.  All ends happily, of course.