Switching back and forth between women’s fiction and romantic comedy satisfies my need for poignant stories and stories that make me laugh, because it is rare to find a book that has both. While I liked Three Sisters, it didn’t tug on my heartstrings. In fact, while it is well written, the characters’ scenarios seemed clichéd, with the death of a child, a marriage in jeopardy, and a career woman looking for love.
With a cardiothoracic mother, neurosurgeon father and brother, plus a sister who is doing vital medical research, pediatrician Andi Gordon is considered the underachiever in her family. Not only is she willing to settle for mediocre, per her mother, she doesn’t have what it takes to keep a man. In front of three hundred guests, her fiancé – a man she has dated for ten years – jilts her, and then leaves her to deal with the mess. Two weeks later, he runs off to Vegas with his receptionist. Looking for a change, Andi recklessly decides to purchase a dilapidated Queen Anne house on Blackberry Island and set up her practice on the first floor. While she should be just concentrating on the logistics of renovating her home and starting up her practice in an unfamiliar town, she is distracted by her new good-looking contractor.
Deanna Phillips is driven to have the perfect home and perfect children. It is how she was raised, after an early traumatic childhood, but it hasn’t brought her happiness. As a regional sales manager, her husband is absent from home frequently, so when Deanna finds a picture on his cell phone of another woman, it is no stretch for her to believe that he has been cheating. Bitterly confronting him, she is surprised when he places the blame on their marital problems firmly on her shoulders. Her rigidness has taken the joy out of his life and their children’s. And he is not going to condemn their five girls to her ridiculous rules and regulations anymore.
Artist Boston King always considered her ardent and loving marriage to her college sweetheart, Zeke, as indestructible. But that was before her life crumbled before her unbelieving eyes. Only five months old, Liam, their young son, died in Boston’s arms of an undiagnosed heart condition. Now they are both struggling to find their way through this catastrophic maze of sorrow and grief. Boston wants to hang on to her memories, and Zeke wants to put them aside. Even though it has only been six months since Liam’s death, he thinks they should move forward, even try for another baby. As their quarrels intensify, she finds solace in her drawings of Liam and Zeke finds it in a bottle.
My issues with the book have nothing to do with the author’s writing or the pacing. All of these items are well done. Ms. Mallery is a competent writer with a proven track record.
My issues are more with the problems that the women face and the way the issues are resolved. First of all, I almost feel that there is a secret writer’s or publisher’s handbook that states you must have three women, and one must be dealing with a death, the other with marital problems and the third has to have been disappointed in love. While all are perfectly valid, authentic concerns, they just feel recycled and overused.
As the book moves from one character to another, the reader spends time in their head, feeling their anguish and unhappiness. Proximity connects the women, and that leads to friendship, at least between Andi and Boston. Boston’s creative, flamboyant, vibrant style has always rubbed Deanna the wrong way, and Deanna’s narrow-mindedness and sanctimonious attitude has always irritated Boston. But with her marriage in jeopardy, Deanna shows vulnerability that changes the others’ perception of her.
I did like the characters, but never felt like I connected with them. Overall I thought that both the characters and their problems lacked depth, and were written in an almost superficial way. The book seems to consist of the women gathering around some type of food and then one of them either breaking down or sharing a confidence with the other two bolstering her up with advice and encouragement. Like musical chairs, this type of scene is played out, as each character gets her turn in the spotlight of her friends’ loving concern and sage counsel. I can’t say that I wanted more angst but I craved more realism, like Boston and Zeke going to grief counseling. Problems like Deanna’s and Boston’s are not so easily resolved.
I ended up closing the book, thinking this was an okay story but not a great one. However, if you don’t think the story arc themes are overused, then you might enjoy it more than I did.