The Almost Sisters: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson

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“Up until now she’d been so protected; she hadn’t known that no one grew up without collecting dings ad broken edges. I hated standing witness to this first hard blow, hated hearing the shiver and crack of her faith.”

Much like what her niece Lavender is now facing, Leia Birch Briggs has been subjected to life’s many dings and fractures, of family, of friendship and now of her grandma Birchie’s mind. Channeling her life experiences through her successfully popular comic book character (because certainly her family life offers much food for comic book creations) she should be on top of the world. So it is with a smitten fan dressed as Batman that she has a wild night, one that has left her ‘knocked up’. Just how will she tell her ‘Southern’ family that she is having a biracial baby? Rachel’s (her step-sister) marriage is crumbling, their relationship is strained at best so she can’t quite come sweeping in to save the day. JJ has betrayed Rachel, but years ago he betrayed Leia first, by changing, by forgetting how much he meant to her. He isn’t the only obstacle that has stood between the sisters for years. The competition to be loved by their mother and Keith (Rachel’s father) is a crack in the family home. This very family structure, feeling like the less stable sister, not as beautiful nor as popular, her comic book character has been a way to create a different self. A purging of the emotional chaos through art, Leia has been borrowing from her life, bleeding wounds become colorful saturated characters that live far better lives than she. Embracing her inner nerd as Rachel already  nailed glamour and stability she is stunned by the collapse of perfect Rachel’s marriage.  Despite the resentment, Rachel is still family and her niece Lavender needs her. Leia will be the one stable adult in the stinking mess JJ and Rachel have made, even if it means reluctantly dragging her niece along toward the madness that awaits them in Alabama.

Off she and Lavender go, back to Leia’s family home. Leia’s grandma Birchie is losing her mind, living with her beloved best friend Wattie whose family had been their servants. But Wattie is family, hiding how bad things have gotten, trying to keep both she and Birchie’s head above water. Leia thinks she is coming to put things in order, just as her own life is chaos. Nothing could prepare her for the real monsters in the attic! In the grand family home, even well to do, prominent families have skeletons. Just how long can darkness hide from the light of exposure? Just how much truth can Leia handle? How is she to tell her family about her own secrets, track down her baby’s daddy (does she even want to) when Birchie’s secrets threaten to swallow the entire town? Could be in trouble with the law? Just how does her teenage niece become the sole person she is opening herself up to, sorting through her very adult problems?

This south is still split between it’s racist past and it’s changing future. In the deep, sisterly bond Wattie (black) and Birchie (white) share their skin color shouldn’t matter but it always has been a divide in their lives. Black and white, meant to be separate yet living parallel lives, shamed by the things fathers do, born on the side of ‘superiority’ or not, some people chose for themselves to see a different world, and to love as they will, rules be damned. That to this day, Leia has to think about what having a biracial baby means, more an issue for others, is a shame that shadows the beauty of the south. The novel reaches into race issues of the past, and the present but it’s also a dissection of families that are thrown together. It’s about the strong bonds of sisterhood that aren’t always created through blood, as with Wattie and Birchie. Rachel and Leia’s relationship needs just as much love and care but insecurities and needs somehow became a vast distance neither could cross, until now. Sometimes it takes ruptures in one’s world to see how much you mean to each other.

Will Leia be reunited with Batman? Will Lavender be able to glue her parents back together? Will Birchie just become another mad old southern woman, or worse be forced into an old folks home? Will Birchie and Wattie tell their decades old secret once and for all? Well you have to read. Dark and heavy at times, silly and fun, it’s everything,

Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Harper Collins

William Morrow

 

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