If you enjoy a novel with a questionable/unreliable narrator, then Sisters is for you. Clocking in at just over 200 pages, it is the kind of book you could get through in a day, and the plot is such that the reader will want to find out exactly what has happened and why. This makes it a little tricky to review without spoilers, but here we go.
Teenagers July and September are sisters, with only 10-months difference in their ages. September is definitely the dominant force while July is quiet and largely acquiescent to her older sister’s demands. They live with their mother Sheela, a writer of children’s books that feature her two daughters as adventurers and sleuths. The girls’ father Peter died many years previously, and we learn that September is her father’s daughter in a couple of significant ways. First, she, like Peter, is fair haired and skinned with blue eyes, while July takes after her darker mother. Secondly, September is often cruel and domineering like her father. The girls’ parents divorced while they were quite young and Peter later died, but Peter seems to live on in September.
When the novel opens, Sheela, July and September have arrived at their aunt’s (Peter’s sister’s) beachside home called Settle House. Something significant happened at the girls’ school which has resulted in their move from Oxford to Yorkshire. The reader will not find out until the end of the story what happened there, but we do see, through the eyes of July and sometimes Sheela, the dysfunctional relationships within this small family unit. The question of how much you love, how you love, and where to place boundaries runs throughout the story and results in some chilling decisions by the characters. What happened at the school is not the only secret revealed in the end.
This novel contains much imagery related to houses, bodies, and how we inhabit them. The reader might wonder if Settle is haunted and/or if July is mentally unstable. The nature of the “haunting” and cause for it provide a shocking and kind of creepy twist at the end. All in all a satisfying way to segue from Halloween to the Day of the Dead.