Growing up in hardscrabble Kentucky in the 1920s, with their mother dead and their stepfather an ever-present threat, Bertie Fisher 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, setting off a chain of misunderstandings that will send the sisters on separate paths and reverberate through their daughters' and granddaughters' lives.
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 and raise daughters - and sisters - of their own, learning that love and betrayal are even more complicated than they seem.
Gorgeously written, with extraordinary insight and emotional truth, Nancy Jensen's debut novel spans the 20th century, illuminates the far-reaching power of family and family secrets.
First published in hardcover in November 2011.
"Encompassing the lives of women in the 20th century, this sprawling saga is tender and satisfying, with a heartbreaking end." - Kirkus Reviews
"I've rarely seen a novel that moves through a number of characters in such a sure-footed and always rewarding way. I really could not put it down. Nancy Jensen has the natural story-teller's ability to command attention, but with sophisticated psychological understanding and beautifully crafted writing. The Sisters is a needed novel that will become a very popular classic." - Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Adam & Eve and Ahab's Wife
"Readers will be both provoked and moved by this story of two sisters whose lives are lived apart yet, in the end, always tied by the bonds of blood and love." - Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
"First-time novelist Jensen redeems her soap opera plot... with an observant eye, adept characterization, and a keen grasp of social issues." - Publishers Weekly
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Rated of 5
This novel shows how one misunderstanding--one missed communication--between sisters Mabel and Bertie can nullify Mabel's sacrifices. It underlines the serious consequences of Bertie's stubborn heart that have an ill effect on her, the next generation, and then even the next. I wish I had come away with a more hopeful feeling when I finished the book, but it is a good read with well-defined characters. Book clubs would have much interesting discussion on several topics.
Rated of 5
Michele J. (Port Orchard, WA)
A Good Book Club Choice
The Sisters is a compelling story that spans several decades and follows the story of two sisters who, although separated, lead intertwining lives. While a few of the premises of the story seemed contrived, the exploration of family dysfunction and relationships is noteworthy and I suspect that this novel will prove quite popular with book clubs. This is the author's debut effort and I look forward to her future efforts as her style becomes more mature and refined.
Rated of 5
Carol G. (Little Egg Harbor, NJ)
A very complex and moving novel that led me to reflect on my own family and my own life and how my life was shaped by those decisions. The reader is drawn into this story deeper and deeper, when nothing turns out as planned for the sisters, stemming from the first misunderstanding!
This extraordinary novel of two sisters and their families spanning over eighty years is one not to be missed and would be a wonderful discussion book for my book club.
This book will stay in your thoughts long after yo have read the last page. I look forward to reading future novels from Nancy Jensen.
Rated of 5
Diane W. (Lake Villa, IL)
First books, I believe, are often an author's best as they seem to be the culmination of many years of thought, reflection, and craft. This book did not disappoint me in that opinion: complex and varied characters; sound writing of a tale of family dynamics, secrets; paths taken vs. not taken; decisions made and the consequences that follow. Would definitely be a good choice for complex discussions and strong opinions in a women's book club or group. Recommended!
Rated of 5
Sharon A. (Tierra Verde, FL)
Sister to sister
I liked the concept of the book, although the elements were depressing. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters from chapter to chapter, having to make sure I read the chapter heading, character name, city and the changing time frames. Other readers may enjoy reading a story of details better than I did.
Rated of 5
Beth K. (New York, NY)
A well written book that I couldn't really enjoy
It is hard for me to assign a numerical rating to this book because while I believe that it is very well written, with authentic characters and an interesting story, it was simply too bleak for me to enjoy it. The women in this story endure one tragedy after another, and are uniformly tortured souls. I can read and appreciate a sad book with the best of them, but this one had not one uplifting moment, with the exception of one section toward the end.
While reading this one, I couldn’t help but think of another novel that I read last year that I recommend often, The Quickening, by Michelle Hoover, which was also quite bleak in its tone and underlying story -- but I ended up really liking it because there were moments of pure joy expressed by some of the characters.
This was a fine book. It just wasn't for me.
Nancy Jensen is a graduate of the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Northwest Review, Other Voices, Under the Sun, and The Louisville Review. She lives in Kentucky, where she was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. The Sisters is her first novel. You can visit her website at www.nancyjensen.org.
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