Desert Isle Keeper
The Good Sister
The Good Sister is one part heartbreaking story of sacrifice on the level on Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, one part Mommie Dearest, and it packs a memorable emotional wallop.
Rose and Fern share a special bond – they’re twin sisters. Rose has a husband, Owen, whom she loves deeply even though their marriage is a bit unstable – and she dreams of becoming a mother while working as an interior decorator. Fern is a single librarian, and on the autism spectrum; diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, she is poor at reading social cues, has sensory issues, and is easily overwhelmed in crowded situations.
Rose has felt responsible for Fern since childhood, always trying to protect her from their sociopathic mother’s worst emotional and physical abuse. Although Fern sees things differently, Rose only remembers the mother who constantly played mind games and held back medical treatment from hypoglycemic Rose, whose juvenile diabetes contributes to the premature aging of her ovaries.
Having been incapacitated by an overdose, the girls’ mother now lives in a nursing home, but only Fern goes to visit her. And Fern is the one who looks at childless Rose and decides that giving her twin sister a baby is just what she needs. On Fern’s part, this does not require a committed relationship, but she falls for the emotionally fragile Wally, and her altruistic project becomes a personal mission.
Rose looks at things differently as her marriage continues to melt down around her. Very differently…
The Good Sister is about one of those symbiotic sibling relationships that is eerie and unhealthy to everyone but those who are participating in it. Cheery Fern and controlled, sorrowful Rose are a single, breathing unit sometimes – they have been bound together since childhood by their mother’s apparent abuse, and by a secret that may or may not have branded Fern a murderer if it got out. Their relationship can be explained thusly: they have engraved bracelets they’ve worn from birth – one with a rose stamped to it, one with a fern – and they tap them together as a form of silent morse code.
Which twin is the actual sociopath? Hepworth telegraphs the answer to that one about midway through the book, but the way the story unspools – with its two unreliable narrators – will keep readers engaged regardless. I can’t reveal much more of the plot, but suffice to say that the way that Hepworth writes library life – and the way she slowly unravels the horror deserves to be discovered by the reader themselves.
As for the romantic content of the novel, I can confirm that at least one of the sisters finds affecting and sweet-tempered love that’s a joy to read about. And no, I’m not going to reveal which sibling it is!
It’s easy to like each of these women, depending where you are in the book. The dark mystery of their shared childhood, the death they are covering up, and just which of them may have tried to do mom in – well, I won’t reveal that truth either. The mystery’s final twist is positively chilling and provides a wonderful little shocker.
The Good Sister is one of Hepworth’s best mysteries, a fascinating, complex, and messy statement about mother love.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore
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