Jennifer Scott,
The Sister Season
(Penguin, 2013)

In Jennifer Scott's new novel, The Sister Season, three sisters, who haven't seen each other for years, gather at their mother's house for the funeral of the father who abused them physically and emotionally. Each is carrying a secret, as is the mother, and each still carries the emotional scars of abuse. Over Christmas week, they are all forced to come to terms with the demons they've been carrying, and they all must let go of the secrets that have strangled up their lives.

Julia, the oldest daughter, is a college professor with a teenage son of her own, whom she fears she has neglected in order to focus on her career. Julia is closed off, tight, wrapped up in her own fears of inadequacy, and she wonders if her son's suicidal tendencies are her fault. The middle child, Maya, has two small children and a philandering husband, whose entire marriage has been characterized by a series of affairs. Finally, there is Claire, the youngest, who seemingly lacks direction and focus. A free spirit, she ran off to California a decade before the events of this novel. This is her first trip back.

From these ingredients, Scott weaves a novel about the effects of abuse on the victims of it. She shows how victims carry the scars well into adulthood and how those effects can carry on into further generations. It's a good theme, and she lines it out in a well-plotted story that is marrred only by too much repetition. At times the book reads as though Scott doesn't trust her readers to get the point or to remember what one character is accusing another of having done in the past, so she drives the scenes home with a sledgehammer when the tap of a tuning fork would do just as well.

Despite the occasional overkill, The Sister Season is a good read. It just isn't the fine one a judicious editing could have made it.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

11 January 2014

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