REVIEW: THE SUNSHINE SISTERS, BY JANE GREEN

Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.
 
As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother’s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London—and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.
 
But now the Sunshine sisters are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy have never been close, their mother’s illness draws them together to confront the old jealousies and secret fears that have threatened to tear these sisters apart. As they face the loss of their mother, they will discover if blood might be thicker than water after all…

My Thoughts: The Sunshine Sisters was a beautifully woven story that brought the past and the present together, and revealed moments of discovery for the characters. Hope for new beginnings.

Multiple narrators offer the opportunity to feel empathy for the individual characters. Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are the daughters who each felt the hurt of an uncaring mother who only seemed to think of herself.

Ronni was focused on her own needs to the exclusion of all else, but in the reunion brought about by her illness, more is revealed. Each character, perhaps especially Ronni, had regrets and felt the sting of what might have been.

Can Ronni’s plan to reunite her family bring out more for each of them? Will she take the drastic steps that she had envisioned?

I enjoyed traits about each character. I liked that Nell was independent and didn’t seem to need anyone to lean on…until the unexpected happened. I admired Meredith’s ability to forge a new life in London, a life that felt like growth for her. But when coming home helped her realize that her fiancé was controlling and judgmental, I loved that she was able, with the support of her sisters, to make the best choice for herself. Lizzy, spoiled and thinking primarily of her own needs, had to finally face the consequences of her actions, but those newly forged sisterly connections turned out to be just what she needed to finally accept herself.

While the story was wrapped up pretty neatly for the characters, I still felt a glow as I turned the last page, making this another 5 star read for me.

***

REVIEW: SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, BY AMY HATVANY

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Jennifer Walker was a young and struggling single mother, barely able to feed her four-year-old daughter Brooke and her 6 month old baby Natalie. They are even living in their car, and the desperation of those circumstances catapult Jennifer down a risky path, leading to incarceration and the loss of her two children. Sadly, Natalie was adopted, but Brooke spent her childhood in foster care, tossed about from home to home.

Somewhere Out There, set in and around the Seattle area, is a story that weaves the past and the present together into a web of family dysfunction, showing us what happens when those familial bonds are broken. Bits and pieces of information are revealed in sporadic increments, bringing the story forward, until finally the whole is complete.

Jennifer narrates her tale in the first person voice of the past, and we see her back when she first loses the girls, and how those mistakes informed her life for many years. Brooke and Natalie take us into portions of their past with their narratives, bringing us into their present, and watching as they finally learn what happened to their family.

Will each of these lives reconnect? What hidden facts will come to light? Will it be too late for them to find a sense of family?

I love this writer’s style which kept me turning pages, wondering what would happen next. Not really a mystery so much as a collection of secret facts that eventually came to light, bringing this reader a sense of satisfaction…and even closure. The characters were flawed, struggling to find their way, and I felt a great sense of empathy for them. This is a story that reminds each of us how fragile family bonds can be, and what happens when connections are severed at an early age. Having spent years working with parents and children separated from one another, I could not help but feel sad at the impact of these huge losses, not just to the families, but to society. But I also felt hopeful…as sometimes the past can be healed. 5 stars.