Tuesday, January 19, 2016

No One Like Her • The Good Sister + Instructions for the End of the World

The Good Sister book cover
The Good Sister by Jamie Kain
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: October 7, 2014 (pb: December 8, 2015)
Source: Paperback received from the publisher (Thanks!)

I almost always want to read a novel when I hear that it features sisters. It's interesting to see how different authors portray all sorts of sister relationships in their fiction, and The Good Sister is a pretty decent piece. The story centers around three siblings - one who died from a fall off a cliff, and the two younger sisters she left behind. It's a story of grief and anger, of guilt and secrets, of tragedy and hope, of history and the future. The circumstances for these three aren't necessarily the norm, what with the complicated family situation and unconventional community.  But it made the read a little more complex! I was quite fascinated to see how things were going to turn out for Rachel, the middle sister, the one with many secrets and strong emotions hidden deep down. I wanted to read more about Asha, who was so reliant on her big sister and mourns that loss deeply, letting her emotions get the better of her. I was also curious to find out what was really going on with Sarah around the time she died. Even though the plot was good, my enjoyment of this one was inhibited by the fact that I had little to no connection with any of the three sisters. Still, it was a quick read that was a decent way to pass a couple of hours during my commutes.

Instructions for the End of the World book cover
Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Source: Hardcover received from the publisher (Thanks!)

Instructions for the End of the World also tells the story of two sisters – Nicole and Isabelle – who are left by their parents to fend for themselves, a task they are more than ready to handle considering their father is a doomsday prepper who has been trying to teach them how to survive the end of the world for their entire lives. It’s the complexity of the relationship between the sisters, as well as their complicated circumstances, that promise to make this novel interesting. But in my humble opinion, it didn’t quite deliver. It relies heavily on portraying character development, including shifting perspectives between the two sisters and a few other characters. Unfortunately, the execution was rather weak, as I felt like I was merely getting murky, distant glimpses at who they were and what they were going through. The uneven plot and the lack of connection with any of the characters, main or secondary, really affected my overall feelings in the end. While I obviously didn't enjoy Kain's second novel, I could definitely still appreciate the potential in her story and will consider checking out future novels from her (albeit cautiously).

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