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: THE IDEA OF YOU, BY AMANDA PROWSE

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

My Thoughts: In an opening prologue, we are swept back to Lucy’s past and an event that will hover over everything that happens to her afterwards. The event is somewhat ambiguous, and we don’t learn all the details until later.

I felt such sadness for all of Lucy’s dreams that are lost, one by one, and also for the unfortunate timing of her stepdaughter Camille’s arrival. Camille is often rude and volatile, but then, just as we decide to hate her, she turns on a dime and becomes appealing and vulnerable.

What will happen when Camille faces her own troublesome crossroads, needing support from parental figures, and Lucy is in a position to offer a unique brand of assistance? How will Lucy’s revelations impact her own marriage? Will Lucy’s secret past open up the lines of communication with her mother?

Set in and near London, The Idea of You gripped my emotions from the beginning, as I rooted for Lucy and Jonah, and then for Camille, as they each hoped and dreamed for a cozy and happy life.

The characters felt like real people, all of whom I wanted to know. A 5 star read, and recommended for those who enjoy family drama, with plenty of issues to address.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

 

REVIEW: THE NEST, BY CYNTHIA D’APRIX SWEENEY

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Set in Manhattan, sometime after the disastrous economic plunge, the adult Plumb children gather together for a lunch to try to sort through the losses of their trust, aptly called “The Nest.” And their agenda includes trying to find a way to persuade Leo to make things right.

Months ago, in another of his many reckless moves, Leo drunkenly crashed the car, seriously injuring his passenger, with whom he’d been having sex…and the repercussions were expensive. Unbeknownst to the others at the time, their mother Francie nearly drained the trust to pay off the family of the injured girl…and to cover Leo’s rehab.

They are all still stunned at what they see as their mother’s betrayal. After all, even though she is the executor of the trust, how could she so blatantly favor their older brother at their expense?

They were all waiting for the trust to pay out, some of them more desperate than others.

The Nest takes us through the historic events of their lives. Leo, as the oldest, is one of those charismatic characters who seems to gather people around him who are eager to help him, join him, and even look up to him. But his numerous bad choices over the years, and his apparent narcissistic focus, make him an unlikeable character and a sibling to abhor.

Bea, a writer whose early works are now a distant memory, is struggling to create something more…and works as an editor in the meantime, for a company called Paper Fibres. She still mourns the loss of her married lover Tucker…and that time in her life when everything seemed possible.

Jack and his partner Walker have a good life, but Walker is unaware of how Jack has borrowed against their vacation home, based on the expectation that the fund will pay out soon.

Melody, with twin daughters nearing college age, is also struggling, hoping for the money she had expected to come by her birthday, as per the terms of the trust. Her husband is trying to stifle her spending and talks about selling their home.

The twins, Louisa and Nora, are going through their own coming-of-age struggles, and I enjoyed seeing how their discoveries about themselves and life seemed so relevant against the backdrop of what was happening with the adults.

Then there is Stephanie, whose life is interconnected with the Plumbs in various ways. What will ultimately bring her life into sharp focus in unexpected ways, and despite the absence of Leo, be the final thread that joins her with the Plumbs?

The story weaves the past and the present together in such a way that I felt as though the characters were people I might meet. Even the supporting characters were fleshed out, enriching the tapestry that made each of their lives real. Moments of sadness, joy, and hope, in the past and in the future…moments that might escape them all unless Leo does the right thing, brought me into the midst of their dilemma, wanting to see how it would all unfold. Then the conclusion came, and although it was not what I thought it would be, it was truly satisfying. 5 stars.

REVIEW: THE COMFORT OF LIES, BY RANDY SUSAN MEYERS

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Set in and around Boston, The Comfort of Lies: A Novel delves into the lives of three women, and what event led to the connections between them.

It starts with Tia Adagio, a young woman working in a senior citizens’ program, and how she becomes attached to a young professor named Nathan Soros.

Their affair was more important to Tia than it was to him, apparently, as he leaves her after she announces her pregnancy. He goes home to his wife Juliette and two sons, and although he confesses the affair to his wife, he leaves out some vital information.

Peter and Caroline Fitzgerald adopt the baby girl, whom they name Savannah. To Tia, she will always be “Honor,” the name she had picked out. And the adoption is somewhat open, in that Peter and Caroline send photos once a year.

Fast forward five years, and Tia makes a decision that will ultimately change everything for the three families, and will bring the women together in surprising ways.

Alternate perspectives reveal the story to the reader, and we see how Tia struggles with depression and how it affects her job performance. How she turns to someone else who might be able to rescue her. And then what leads to her ultimate decision for her life.

Juliette will be drawn into the mix when she stumbles upon something unexpected.

Caroline, a pediatric pathologist, is all about her work, so being a mother is especially challenging for her. Sometimes she feels that she is not really a good mother. The unfolding of events set in motion by Tia and Juliette help her to change things in her life.

How each of the women face what happened and learn how to craft new lives for themselves, without hiding important truths, is the crux of the story. I thought that the nice ending might have been a little pat, but it left me with a smile on my face. So…4.5 stars.