Monday, September 14, 2015

The Night Sister

Title:  The Night Sister
Author:  Jennifer McMahon
Publication Information:  Doubleday. 2015. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0385538510 / 978-0385538510

Book Source:  I read this book based on how much I enjoyed Jennifer McMahon's book, The Winter People.

Opening Sentence:  "Amy's heart hammers, and her skin is slick with sweat."

Favorite Quote:  "The world looks at me and sees a happy girl. A girl bubbling with hope and optimism. So sweet. So innocent. Oh, the things they don't know! Could never guess at! It's all an act; I am the greatest actress of all!"

In 2013, a ghastly, gruesome murder leaves all but one family member dead. In the 1980s, three friends make a ghoulish discovery. In the 1960s, one of two sisters disappears.

Jennifer McMahon's book, The Winter People, had the sleepers. This books has the mares. "Mares are human during the day, but at night, they change into all different creatures. One minute, they're a person; the next, they can be a cat, a bird, or a butterfly ... But sometimes they turn into terrible monsters..."

Are mares real or are they just a story told to children? Given how The Winter People went and given the fact that the above definition is found close to the start of the book, I think we all know how that question gets answered. The question that remains is who? In each time period, who? In each generation, benevolent or malevolent? How do the generations link together?

In the 1960s are sisters Rose and Sylvia. Sylvia has dreams of being an actress. She is the beautiful one and the smart one. She is also the one writing letters to Alfred Hitchcock about the strange goings on in her life. A bit obvious perhaps, but fun to read. Rose is forever in Sylvia's shadow. Then, one day, one of the sisters disappears. Who? How? Why? This section to me is the best part part of the book, for Rose and Sylvia and their sisterly rivalry seems the most real part of the book.

In the 1980s are friends Amy, Piper, and Margot. Together, they share secrets and explore their world.  Of course, there is a boy involved. At one point, they make a gruesome discovery in Amy's home. The events that follow break up the friendship between the girls. Piper leaves the small town in which they live, while Amy and Margot remain. This aspect of the story is typical teenage drama with one gory addition.

In 2013, Amy and her family are the victims of a ghastly tragedy. The investigation brings Piper back to town and opens up all the secrets long buried. Although this tragedy and what happens next is the focal point of the book, it seems the least developed and the least cohesive of the three time periods perhaps because it becomes only the hook into the past.

Alternating between the three time periods, the book gives bits and pieces of each story until they all come together in a dramatic conclusion.

I read this book because I so enjoyed The Winter People. So, comparisons are inevitable. This book unfortunately just does not come together in the same way. The book starts off by answering the question of "what" close to the beginning of the book. The question of "who" can be answered in each time period by a process of elimination. For that reason, the book does not have the same intensity or suspense.

Two other anomalies stand out in this book. First is the entire storyline surrounding Margot and her pregnancy. The book goes into how Margot and her husband's relationship came to be and how that relates to Amy. Then, a lot of time is spent discussing Margot's pregnancy and the effect of the Amy's tragedy on that pregnancy. Why? It really has no relevance to the main story at all. It only adds volume to the book.

Second, the ending of the book is a letdown. The supernatural element, so effectively handled in The Winter People, is considerably less effective in this book. Mainly though, the characters in the book don't really develop. As a result, I am not invested in the characters or the story and am left with the reaction, "That's it?"

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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