By Nancy Jensen
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312542702, 336pp.)
Publication Date: November 8, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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 apart
Growing 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.
NANCY JENSEN, who received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, has published stories and essays in numerous literary journals, including The Louisville Review, Other Voices, and Northwest Review. She was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, and teaches English at Eastern Kentucky University. The Sisters, her first novel, was named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews.
- There are many secrets in The Sisters, beginning with Mabel’s decision not to tell Bertie about Jim Butcher. In trying to understand her sister’s behavior, fourteen-year-old Bertie wonders if “the things she didn’t know were what kept her safe.” What secrets do other characters keep, and how do you think the secrets ultimately help or hurt their loved ones?
"Fans of THE HELP will be beguiled by Jensen's debut novel. Set in rural Kentucky in the midst of the Depression, and inspired by Jensen's own family history, it centers on an incident that created a lifelong breach between two sisters, one that reverberates throughout three generations. It's a sweet but never saccharine tribute to the pull of family."—Whole Living
"First-time novelist Jensen—tracing the lives of two sisters separated in their youth by a tragic misunderstanding—[has] an observant eye, adept characterization, and a keen grasp of social issues." —Publishers Weekly
"A single tragic event shapes four generations of American women in this accomplished and poignant debut...Encompassing the lives of women in the 20th century, this sprawling saga is tender and satisfying, with a heartbreaking end."—Kirkus Reviews
“You’ll be drawn into the arms of The Sisters as if these women were your own family. You’ll want to hold them, warn them, betray their secrets. But this is a novel, one that is fresh and vibrant and complex. You cannot live the sisters’ lives, but only share in their joy and heartbreak and ultimate triumph. A remarkably powerful book.”—Sandra Dallas, author of Prayers for Sale
“Nancy Jensen has the natural story-teller’s ability to command attention, but with sophisticated psychological understanding and beautifully crafted writing. The Sisters is a needed novel that will become a very popular classic."—Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife
“A beautiful and touching novel about the events and choices that shape not only our lives but the lives of generations to come. Nancy Jensen takes us on an epic yet intimate journey through eighty years, ultimately revealing the flawed but lovely landscape that makes up a family. Her characters will stay with us long after the book’s final pages.”—Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader