The Second Sister
The Second Sister is a prime example of a perfectly good story undone by perfectly lackluster execution. As delivered, it feels more like the skeleton of a good story than a good story itself. It has all the right parts, but there’s no meat on the bones.
Dutiful daughter Colleen Davis sacrificed her own hopes and dreams to care for her dying father. After a lifetime of heavy drinking, Sean Davis is dying of liver failure. His drinking and abusive behavior caused his wife to leave him and his daughter Violet to cut off all communication. On his deathbed, he wants to make amends. Colleen has no luck reaching her mother, who since remarried. Determined to find her sister, she travels to Violet’s last known address in Echo Point, Arizona.
When her car dies not far from Violet’s house, Sheriff Vince Moreno comes to Colleen’s rescue. Vince is good friends with Violet and her husband, Ian. An author currently on a book tour, Ian asked Vince to look in on Violet while he was away. So when this woman arrives in town claiming to be Violet’s sister, Vince’s protective instincts go into overdrive. Colleen wants her sister to come back to California to see their father before he dies. Vince is opposed to the idea, since Violet is currently experiencing a difficult pregnancy. But with an okay from her doctor that she can travel by car, the three of them take off for California. There, the two sisters have to deal with their own fractured relationship and the memories of their troubled family. Meanwhile, Vince and Colleen grow closer, but he has a traumatic past of his own he believes keeps him from being able to have a relationship.
This is one of the most frustrating books I’ve read in a while. The story has a deeply emotional premise that has the potential to be really powerful. There are definitely times when it is, where the author delivers remarkable moments and hard-hitting scenes. But those moments are fleeting, over so quickly that they’re never as satisfying as they could be. Ironically, the fact that there are so many great moments is what keeps me from recommending The Second Sister, because those moments make the rest of the book even more unsatisfying.
The main problem is that the author’s treatment of the material is too shallow. As is the case with too many series books these days, it’s very underwritten. Parts of the story needed to be developed more. Certain key moments are glossed over and don’t have nearly the impact they should. For instance, the first few chapters seem to be building toward Violet’s first face-to-face meeting with her father in years. We get to see several scenes of Violet approaching the hospital, then changing her mind and turning back. But when it finally happens, the reader doesn’t see it. Instead, we get a boring scene with Colleen and Vince where they note that Violet has gone off to the hospital. This is the first time in years she comes face to face with the alcoholic father who used to beat her. I can’t imagine how an author could not show the reader that scene. How is she feeling at that moment? How is she finally able to enter that room? Given the way the author only pays lip service to the characters’ emotions at other key moments, I’m not sure she could have done justice to what Violet experiences there, but it would have been nice had she tried.
The romance is sweet. The first scene where Colleen and Vince begin to feel an attraction toward each other is very well done and effective. There’s a picture of a baseball field on the front cover of the book, and it’s fitting because there one of the story’s best scenes takes place at an Angels game and is almost breathtakingly good. But some readers may wish to know that the romance is not the dominant storyline. It’s merely one of several unfolding throughout the book, and is a little understated. Readers have to take whatever fulfillment they can get from the fleeting moments, because that’s about all there is.
This isn’t a bad book by any means, and there are times it’s downright great. I debated whether or not to give it a marginal recommendation because of that. Some readers may find those hard-hitting emotional moments effective enough to make the book worthwhile. For me, the book as a whole was ultimately too weightless, too shallow, and as a result never managed to achieve the cumulative effect it truly needed. It felt as though every time I got something juicy to sink my teeth into, it slipped right through my fingers and was gone. The emotions are there, but they’re too ephemeral. As a result, the book as a whole didn’t make as much as a lasting impression as it should have, and I know I won’t remember reading it within a few days after finishing it. What a shame.