Saturday, May 13, 2017

Little Sister

Title:  Little Sister
Author:  Barbara Gowdy
Publication Information:  Tin House Books. 2017. 300 pages.
ISBN:  1941040608 / 978-1941040607

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "From her office above the Regal Repertory Theater, Rose Bowan watched a Coke can roll down the sidewalk across the street."

Favorite Quote:  "Life is all doing and undoing."

Rose Bowan has a pretty great life in some ways. She owns and runs a family business - a historic theater. She is in a stable, long-term relationship. She is independent. She has the love of family and friends.

On the other hand, Rose has tragedies in her life. Her father passed away. Her mother is descending into dementia. Her sister Ava died in childhood, and Rose feels responsible. Something seems missing in her relationship with her boyfriend. On top of all that, Rose thinks she may be losing her mind.

Every time a storm comes, Rose finds herself transported to another woman's life. She becomes Harriet, living her life and her relationships. The episodes last a short time, and then Rose is pulled back to her own life. At first, she thinks it's an anomaly and just moves on. Then, she thinks there might be something wrong with her. Then, she find herself more and more drawn to this other life. To her surprise, she discovers that Harriet is not only a real person but living in the same time and the same city as Rose herself. Gradually, Rose finds herself seeking out storms for Harriet's life seems so much more intriguing and beguiling than her own.

In her real life, Rose is caring for her mother, trying to run her business, and trying to decide is her relationship with her boyfriend is worth salvaging. Harriet is involved in an affair with a married man and facing a pregnancy. The decision as to what may happen to this unborn child weighs heavily on Rose. She feels a sense of responsibility for a life that is not her own.

Within this surreal story, the book gradually reveals the secret of Rose's childhood, and the collection of eccentric characters that inhabit that childhood. What happened to Ava? What was Rose's role in Ava's death? How has that trauma of her childhood impacted Rose's entire life?

The book is based on the premise that an ordinary person living an every day life all of a sudden finds herself entering another woman's body and life. This happens with regularity. Rose becomes another woman. Yet, her reaction displays an equanimity that belies her unusual circumstances. She seems very matter-of-fact - too much so - about everything. Her moment of surprise does come at the very end of the book, but, at that moment, the book ends. It would be intriguing to see more of that emotional reaction throughout.

What strikes more a chord with me is the character of Fiona, Rose's mother. Fiona's struggle with her worsening dementia and Rose's role as caregiver are touching and sad, but they are is side story line not the main story.

I appreciate the premise of the book and the touch of magic realism. However, ultimately I am not the reader for this book. The physical descriptions that occur frequently in this book are just not for me. In addition, the entire book and especially the ending seems anticlimactic. Overall, though, I leave this book thinking that somewhere along the way I missed the point.

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

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