The Sister by Poppy Adams - Book Review

Poppy Adams, a documentary filmmaker, has ventured into the realm of fiction with her debut story of reconnection between two estranged sisters. Told in first person, The Sister opens with 70-year-old Ginny waiting for her younger sister, Vivi, to return home after nearly fifty years.

Through tension and memories Ginny describes the sister’s youth and her own obsession with ordering the small world around her. Ginny has remained at their birth home and inherited her father’s love of all things dealing with moths (that’s right folks, moths…like butterflies). Vivi has ventured out into the world and even uses a cell phone and knows how to make pizza!

But under the surface of this homecoming lie secrets and a feeling of impending ruin. It isn’t long before the reader begins to realize Ginny’s unreliability as a narrator. Something’s just not right. She’s preoccupied with detail, time and order. We begin to ask ourselves which sister to like, because taking sides seems to be a theme in their family. In the end, there are no easy answers and many questions are left out to dry.

The premise of this book is an interesting one: an examination of the mind’s ability to misrepresent its own reality and the degrees of which our impulses over-ride free will. Yet, the telling gets so bogged down in scientific description (in an attempt at comparisons) it loses momentum. Ms. Adams overlooks that many readers want to be entertained by books. Yes, we like to learn. Yes, we like a good mystery twist, but we’re discerning when it comes to contrivance to fit a theme. And contrivance is a good word for this novel. It’s a heavy-handed attempt at building mystery. There’s too much description to keep the nuance going. Just as I’d get a good feel for the atmosphere in the home, some long scientific allusion would break the flow.

In the end, the wiz-bang came off as just a pop. I didn’t care which sister was the more reliable or less faulted or even whose version was correct. I’d long given up on Ginny and imagined far worse from her than the tale’s end.

Read from an advanced copy.
On sale in USA June 17, 2008. Available in UK under the title The Behaviour of Moths May 1, 2008. Buy The Sister HERE

© 2007-2009

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Kim L said...

What an excellent review! That is exactly how I felt about the book as well. The end seemed exactly that... contrived. And the metaphors seemed forced. (Ginny's watch stops working right as we start questioning her sanity???)

Cheryl Tasses said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kim.
Whenever I get an ARC I feel some pressure to 'like' them, but I always end up going with honesty.

Chris said...

I just read your last two paragraphs because I'm about to read this one too, but it always disappoints me when an author gets so caught up in description and wordiness that they forget to tell the story. Like you said...we just want to be entertained. Hopefully I'll have a different experience, but from the reviews I keep seeing, I'm afraid I won't. We'll see! Love the look of your site by the way!

Cheryl Tasses said...

Thanks... I had a million templates up before I finally had to stop!


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