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The Sisters: A Novel by Nancy Jensen
  • Author: Nancy Jensen
  • Title: The Sisters: A Novel
  • Size PDF ver: 1756 kb
  • Size ePUB ver: 1555 kb
  • Size Fb2 ver: 1590 kb
  • ISBN: 0312542704
  • ISBN13: 978-0312542702
  • Pages: 336
  • Other formats: lit mobi azw rtf
  • Category: Literature & Fiction
  • Subcat: Genre Fiction
  • Language: English
  • Rating: 4.2 of 5
  • Votes: 424
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st Edition. edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Hardcover: Here
The Sisters: A Novel

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 In the tradition of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a dazzling debut novel about the family bonds that remain even when they seem irretrievably torn apartGrowing up in hardscrabble Kentucky in the 1920s, with their mother dead and their stepfather an ever-present threat, Bertie Fischer and her older sister Mabel have no one but each other—with perhaps a sweetheart for Bertie waiting in the wings. But on the day that Bertie receives her eighth-grade diploma, good intentions go terribly wrong. A choice made in desperate haste sets off a chain of misunderstandings that will divide the sisters and reverberate through three generations of women.What happens when nothing turns out as you planned? From the Depression through World War II and Vietnam, and smaller events both tragic and joyful, Bertie and Mabel forge unexpected identities that are shaped by unspeakable secrets. As the sisters have daughters and granddaughters of their own, they discover that both love and betrayal are even more complicated than they seem.  

Gorgeously written, with extraordinary insight and emotional truth, Nancy Jensen’s powerful debut novel illuminates the far-reaching power of family and family secrets.

Reviews num: (7)

Confusing hodgepodge of characters whom, other than the sisters, I found uninteresting. Sections about secondary characters are not sufficiently developed. For some reason, I had to keep referring to the relationship chart, which gets really tedious. I stuck with it only to find the ending has no resolution; it just ends. If Jensen is making a statement that life often works that way, the ending made no philosophical statement conveying that notion in any satisfactory way.
Warning: If you read this book before you need to go to an appointment or sneak in a few minutes before starting to cook dinner or going to bed, set an alarm. Otherwise, hours could go by, and you'll never know it. This engrossing first novel by Nancy Jensen begins in the early 1900s with the story of two sisters, a horrific secret and crossed paths that will forever change both their lives. Each chapter tells the story from the point of view of a different character, beginning with the sisters, Mabel and Bertie, and continuing with their children and grandchildren. The ending is absolutely astounding. I never foresaw it. This book will grab you on the first page and not let go. Excellent!
You can't put this down once you start, because you keep wanting the fairy tale, that is always near, maybe on the next page, but what comes is an even better story. You will weave through lives and learn what families can do to each other and yet love and have bonds that resist time and heartbreak. You will discover resiliency and strength. And discover that we each see love and life differently, yet make connections that last a lifetime and beyond.
In this, her debut novel, Nancy Jensen does an impressive job of resisting the temptation to wrap everything up in a pleasant resolution, such as reunion and reconciliation of estranged sisters Bertie and Mabel or their descendants. Instead, she delivers the tougher truth of broken families: that there is no reconciliation as long as there are buried secrets. The best we can do short of the whole truth is what Bertie's granddaughter Grace does: fashion art out of the few traces our ancestors left behind. So Grace weaves these meager strands - their names, dates, initials, photos, a faded ribbon from a dance eighty years ago - into a beautiful necklace, which she presents to her niece Taylor at a family gathering.
I don't know Mabel's story, Grace tells Taylor, to explain why the pattern of the intricately woven necklace is slightly out of balance. But even these secrets that disorder families, become part of our legacy. That Jensen knows this, and has found a way to show it so effectively in her first novel, is a major feat. Without giving readers what we hope for after the childhood break-up of the sisters in the first chapter: an eventual reunion, Jensen instead carves a harder path through the thicket of family misunderstanding to a rare insight about human connection: "Whatever we carry inside us shapes everyone we touch."
Mary Lee C. Fowler, Ptld., Maine
I realize that this book was written by an MFA'er and I feel badly criticizing it. I have read 2 excellent first novels in the past few weeks and they have been extraordinary..."Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward and "Girlchild" by Tupelo Hassman were both unanticipated treasures."The Sisters" came highly praised and compared to 2 superior and very respected authors...Marilyn Robinson and Elizabeth Strout...Wow. So my expectations were really very high. Not fair, to me or to Nancy Jensen.

This was the most uneven book I have ever read. The author sets up a rather unbelievable scenario in which 2 sisters become estranged and it appears that she will take the reader on a chapter by chapter journey through the next several generations of this family. This does not happen though, because the story is centered on the life of one of the sisters...with the other one getting not only short shrifted but given an absolutely ridiculous narrative. Just awful...

I give "The Sisters" 3 stars because the the sister that becomes the book's protagonist is written beautifully. I have read that the story is somewhat autobiographical and this woman is obviously based on someone that the author has been intimately close to. The character of "Bertie" is so expertly drawn that she brought me to tears. The reverberations than rippled through Bertie's family, due to her being deeply hurt and betrayed early in her life, were so raw and honest. Brilliant, really. This part of the story reminded me of the wonderful Brett Lott and his masterful book "Jewel" of several years ago. Unfortunately...the rest of the story orbiting around this character was so dreadful that I just can't reccomend this book.

Nancy Jensen is a talented and nuanced writer...I hope to see her produce another novel. My advice to her is to write about what she is familiar with...and leave alone contrived and far stretching plot devices. And if writing a book with alternating chapters that are dedicated to individual characters, she must create them with some equality of interest.
This book was unfullfilling in so many ways. The author left so many loose ends, almost hinting that a sequel is in order. It was difficult to keep track of all the characters, even with the family tree at the beginning of the book. I also felt some parts were very detailed while others were given little importance. The story line had the potential for a good read but it failed on many fronts.
I found it difficult because of all the names. Seemed like a bit about each person was told then moved on quickly to the next person, without really getting to know each person. Because of that and the many names in each sister's story made it difficult to follow and understand

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