The Almost Sisters
July 11, 2017
Publisher via She Reads
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.
I've read many of Joshilyn Jackson's books, and have really enjoyed them all. However, I think this is my favorite of the bunch! Jackson has a way of writing the south that is spot on, without being fake or like she is trying too hard. The premise for this novel made me giggle before I even started reading it (pregnant from a one night stand with Batman at a comic con......priceless idea for a novel!). But lest you think that this is a comedic novel, it is not. You may chuckle along the way, but there are also some serious and real time struggles going on with the various characters. There is her sister's marital troubles, her niece's coming of age trials, her grandmother's hidden senility, and that big secret looming in the trunk in the attic. Add to all that the issue of race, and the perception of the south vs. being brought up and living there. The writing was fabulous, the characters were ones that you cared about seeing through to the end, and the descriptive setting all came together to make for a wonderful read. The only thing that would have made this better is if I could have listened to it on audio, since the author narrates her books (and if you ever get the chance to listen to one of her titles, be sure to do so!).
I ate up this story of family, with all its built in drama (and humor). Ms. Jackson is one of the best southern writers out there, and this novel just solidifies that point.
This book was a summer selection for the SheReads blog network. Click the link to read more about them, and follow along on social media with #shereads for more reviews of all the books chosen this summer.