Summary and book reviews of The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters

by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
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  • Published:
    Jul 2017, 352 pages

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Book Summary

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.

1

MY SON, DIGBY, began at exactly 3:02 in the morning on the first Friday in June. I don't mean his conception or his birth. I mean the moment he began for me, which happened between those two larger events. It was a start so small I almost didn't notice. I was very, very busy panicking about my job.

I'd finished penciling and inking a limited series for DC Comics, the last contract standing between me and the prequel to my own graphic novel, Violence in Violet. Every word and every line of Violence in Violet had been written and penciled and lettered and inked and colored by me. I was proud as hell of it, but I hadn't continued it as a series. I couldn't. V in V ended in a full apocalypse. Literally nothing could happen next in Violence's world, because there was no next. Everything was over, and it stayed over until Dark Horse Comics came to me with the offer for a prequel. They wanted Violence's origin story.

Every superbeing has one. Peter ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Throughout the story Leia deals with motherhood in many iterations--when she gets pregnant, when she reverses roles with Birchie, when she sees Rachel floundering and must help Lavender. How does Leia grow as a mother throughout the story? Leia mentions speaking in "unbrookable mother," what do you think she means by that?
  2. Leia makes the decision to hide her pregnancy early on, and keeps her secret throughout much of the story. Do you think Leia made the right decision? Were you surprised by characters' reactions when her pregnancy was revealed?
  3. Leia sees her comic book characters as reflections of her inner self—Violet as a reflection of her own innocence, and Violence as her doppelganger. Do you also ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I think this would be a great book for book clubs because there are so many important issues ranging from dementia, to marital problems, to unplanned pregnancies. Highly recommend! (Deborah C) A great book club book – so much to discuss (Sharon R). Will recommend to anyone who likes a little mystery and light-hearted plot (Tawana J-S). With thanks to BookBrowse for the chance to read and review The Almost Sisters. I was happy to discover its engaging characters and its deeper conversation about racial prejudice and issues of privilege. Our country has made enormous strides but the racial divide still simmers. Adding the religious prejudices and the roiling immigration issues, and it is clear that a lot of discussion still needs to be faced. You will root for Leia and the future of her unborn child. Book clubs will find a lot to discuss and enjoy (Esther L).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Jackson has packed in all the drama needed for a fast-paced summer read, but this isn't your average beach book. Dark secrets and racism plague Grandma Birchie's seemingly charming southern town, and Leia will soon find that real-life villains aren't as easy to identify as the ones in her comic books.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Perhaps the novel overreaches - the ending is a bit sober for what comes before - but it's not a major flaw. A satisfying, entertaining read from an admired writer who deserves to be a household name.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Both literary and women's fiction readers will appreciate Leia's smart/sassy narrative. Book clubs will find much to talk about in this multigenerational, Southern tale of sisters , friendship, and small-town life, including the author's signature quirky characters and deft touch with serious topics such as aging, race, and cultural identity.

Author Blurb Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy
The Almost Sisters is a book only Joshilyn Jackson could have written… I was swept up by her inimitable voice from the very first page: she deftly combines such unexpected subjects as superheroes, single motherhood, race, and the impact of long-buried secrets.

Author Blurb Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine and How Do I Tell Toledo from the Nights Sky
In a story of incredible love and bravery, [Jackson] lasers through the weathered grace and mossy tradition of the contemporary south to explode its comic book dualism with blistering genius…Imagine Flannery O'Connor in a Wonder Woman suit, and you'll get close to the big heart of this brilliant book.

Reader Reviews

Barbara L. (Novato, CA)

The Almost Sisters
I loved this novel! It is quirky, funny, and bright. I loved the sisters' relationship with each other, so close, yet so different. This is a story of unplanned pregnancy, aging, dementia, class and racial tensions, all packed into one great read!

Carolyn V. (Douglass, KS)

Lovely, Lovely Book
I stayed up late to finish this book. Something I haven't done in a long time. Joshilyn Jackson's use of language was so fun. The book read so easily, yet subjects covered were quite heavy - racism in the South, mixed race children, care of older ...   Read More

Margaret A. (Akron, OH)

Perspective
The story takes place in the South. It is about one family in particular and one sister is the main protagonist. That being said it is about family dynamics, lifestyles, hopes and wishes. Perspectives on family, neighbors and even different ...   Read More

Tawana J. (Brownsville, VT)

Almost Sisters
I loved this book, it was a page turner and quite funny characters. This is a book I would read again. Will recommend to anyone who likes a little mystery and light-hearted plot.

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Beyond the Book

Female Comic Book Writers

Leia Birch, the central character in Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters, is the writer of a comic books series published by DC Comics. While the characters and the comic are both fictional, in real-life, as is in the book, female writers are in the minority. The comic book world is chock full of men - they are both characters in the pages and the writers and illustrators creating those pages - but women have made significant contributions to the genre. From the early 20th century, when comics were just entering the newspaper scene and Nell Brinkley became famous for her well-loved illustrations to Becky Cloonan, who was the first woman to draw Batman for DC Comics in 2012, women have written and drawn comics for newspapers, mainstream ...

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