Rated Reads

The Sister

by Poppy Adams

Rated: Moderate

Families are the ties that bind. Sometimes too tightly. When two sisters are reunited after almost 50 years apart, old secrets buried long in the past are dredged up again, and the results are dangerous for both.

Vivien left her family’s huge but crumbling estate when she was fresh into adulthood; only a few times did she visit, and then she was gone for good. Ginny, the sister who was left behind, took care of their mother and father until the former’s death and the latter’s move into a home. Alone in the house, she carried on the work the family had done for several generations — the study of moths — and kept to herself, a recluse. Ginny is pleased and excited to see the younger sister she adored, but when Vivien asks questions and starts nosing around the wings of the house that Ginny has had closed for years, Ginny is unnerved. The old family dynamics are resurrected and twisted a bit, as memories surface, especially of Vivien’s nearly fatal accident when she was only eight, and of their mother’s fatal fall down a flight of stairs.

The Sister is an eerie character study — of four people in a family — but particularly of Ginny, the narrator. We see events exclusively through the lens of Ginny’s memories and perceptions, and it is sometimes a bit shady. We wonder as we read, What is the truth? But then we also wonder if truth isn’t sometimes relative given those shades of perception.

Poppy Adams’ debut novel is a bit slow at times, bogged down somewhat by the details of lepidopterology. But the mists of the mind and of one family’s history inevitably capture the reader’s attention, and the diligence pays off in a satisfyingly spooky tale.

Rated: Moderate, for three occasions of very strong language, a few uses of moderate language, and some mild language. A couple of sexual scenes with only mild detail.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Sister
  • by Poppy Adams
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: