I’m using this as my REP bingo square.
The Good Sister is told from the perspective of two Australian sisters (and twins), Rose and Fern. Rose is an accomplished interior designer married to a wonderful man and all she wants is to be a mother. Through her journal entries, however, we hear about her fraught relationship with her own mother’s narcissistic ways.
And Fern, while not explicitly identified as such, seems to have Autism Spectrum Disorder given her sensory processing issues, social discomfort, and love of routine and exactness. She doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about her past, but instead she focuses on her routines and her job at the local library. She loves her job, but she hates helping people with the printers and copiers…
Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, the sisters have dinner together. And Fern feels fortunate to have a sister who can uniquely care for her and who uniquely understands her. On Thursdays, Fern also visits their mother in a long-term care facility where she’s been since she overdosed when the girls were teenagers.
When Rose is unable to conceive a child, Fern concocts a plan to be a surrogate for her sister and goes on the hunt for a suitable sperm donor. In a twist of fate, she meets a charming American man at the library who turns out to be a multimillionaire computer programmer who is also on the spectrum, and therefore highly attuned to Fern’s needs and preferences.
Fern eventually does get pregnant, and as soon as that happens, the rest of her life seems to fall apart. Rose is skeptical of Fern’s ability to care for herself or a child, and she takes on a larger and larger role in Fern’s life. Or… is there something more sinister at play?
I very much enjoyed reading this novel. Fern is a strong, funny, smart, and surprising person, and I really enjoy how Hepworth writes her voice. The two sisters provide wildly different perspectives of the same events, and part of the fun of the novel is parsing the truth out of the different accounts. I would highly recommend reading this one!
Also, I’m curious about the opinion of people with more experience than me about the representation of autism spectrum disorder and neurodivergence in the novel. How well does Hepworth capture the experience? And are there other books/stories that you would recommend from the perspective of neuordivergent people?