St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-97892-8
Contemporary Romance, 2001
This is an anthology about sisters, with the romance (between a sister and her boyfriend, that is, not between sisters) sometimes taking a backseat to sisterly bonding. But I find all these stories lacking in some way.
Donna Hill kicks off the show with Thicker Than Water. This one is basically a take on the Responsible Good Sister/Bitch Sister thing. Guess who’s the heroine.
Angela Richards, the Good Sister, has severed ties with her family. No longer will she be a Cinderella to her family again. Then Gayla’s daughter (Gayla is the Bitch Sister) calls, saying that Gayla is sick and maybe about to croak since she is that sick, and Angela runs like a doormat caught in a tornado to cater to Gayla hand and feet.
Gayla bitches, snipes, and whines; Angela whines, moans, and tells Bitch Sister to stuff it – right before meekly going to get Bitch Sister dinner. Finally, Bitch Sister spends some time psychoanalyzing things with Good Sister, and everyone decides it’s Bitch Mother’s fault.
Faster than you can say “Sisters are doin’ it for themselves!” Gayla gets perfectly well and everybody starts visiting each other’s homes for some Oprah-esque family hour.
Hmm. I don’t know what to say.
Carmen Green’s Loving Lola is painful. It’s not bad, and maybe it’s real, I don’t know, but the sisters are so bitter I doubt the instant psychoanalyzing and bonding towards the end is anything but a brief respite before everybody goes off to Jerry Springer.
Sandra, Responsible Sister, has been taking care of Irresponsible Deadbeat Mom Sister Lola’s kid since the boy was born. Lola suddenly pops into Sandra’s life one day, declares that she’s marrying a man she met so briefly a while ago, and she is taking the boy Brian back.
Sandra is sure that Lola cannot change and she will fight Lola for the boy, Lola is angry that Sandra thinks so lowly of her. Fight! Bitching! Screeching! Hair pulling!
This should have been a full length novel, probably only then could the happy ending ring real. These sisters have real, serious issues, and no happy smooching can be a convincing panacea. As it is, this is one gritty story bludgeoned into being an unconvincingly sunny story. Not very effective.
Finally, Janice Sims closes the anthology with Best Left Unsaid. This one is the most accessible if oddly out of theme, as the emphasis seems more on the sisters finding love on their own and then meeting for some sisterly bonding/bitching rather than sisterly relationships.
On the plus side, there is no clear-cut black and white differences between sisters, ie the sisters are not “good” and “bad” stereotypes. LuAnne is a supermodel who finds romance with ex-professional football player, Sandra does a multiracial thing with her editor, and the sisters meet together late in the story for some bonding and closure of some loose ends in their relationships.
This one is pretty okay, but the characters sometimes speak like people reading aloud from an Oprah Winfrey TV show script, and the sisters’ issues are transparent and rather contrived. But the romance is sweet, which is far from what I can say of the other two stories.
Sister, Sister doesn’t seem to be sure whether it wants to be a mainstream women’s fiction or a more idealistic romance novel. It tries to be both, and ends up stuck in the middle, not going anywhere much.
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