The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
advanced reading copy; 352 pages
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson is a very highly
recommended novel about family, aging, privilege, and the South.
This incredible novel has it all - memorable, quirky characters,
remarkable writing, and an outstanding plot. The Almost Sisters
may be my favorite novel by Jackson to date (which is special
because I have loved all her novels), and is a contender for my top
ten books of the year.
Leia Birch Briggs, 38, is a successful comic book artist who was in
the bar at a comics convention when she met Batman and fell hard.
"Plus, tequila never was the handmaiden of good decisions. I’d asked
him up to my room. We’d started kissing in the elevator..." The
result is Leia is pregnant with Batman's child. All she remembers is
that he is black so her child, a boy she calls Digby, will be
biracial. She wants Digby despite the fact that "I’d walked away
from every man I might have married. No, I’d run. The playground
song in my head went: First comes love, then comes hideous betrayal,
then comes endless regret requiring expensive therapy. It was a
terrible song. It didn’t even rhyme. But it was mine, and I hadn’t
made a family, even though I’d wanted one. I still did."
Before she has a chance to break the news to her family, her
step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes on the same day her 90
year-old grandmother Birchie makes it known in some very public
comments while at church that she is slipping into dementia. Leia
ends up taking her 13 year-old niece, Lavender, with her as she
heads to Birchie's home where she lives with her life-long friend
Wattie in a small Alabama town. Leia is now faced with cleaning out
the family home and finding some place safe for Birchie and Wattie
to live - and they don't want to leave. She also still needs to tell
her family she's expecting. But nothing is as simple as a to-do list
and even more surprises and complications await her in Alabama than
she could imagine.
Jackson always writes funny, quirky, unique characters that are
memorable and resonate with you long after the novel is over. The
Almost Sisters is no exception. I loved the characters in this
novel. I love Leia, Birchie, Wattie, Lavender, Rachel, and Batman.
(It helps that we do geek in my home.) I also love how Jackson
portrays families here: messy and complicated, but supportive even
while shaking their heads at the events that are unfolding and
secrets that are revealed. And the humor throughout the novel is
integrated perfectly into the characters voices and actions.
The the quality of the writing is phenomenal and the pacing is
perfect. I was caught up in the narrative from beginning to end and
enjoyed every turn and new revelation that came along. Jackson has
an understanding, empathetic way of handling some serious issues,
including aging grandparents, blended families, contentions between
sisters, the existence of privilege, and racism. She does it so
gracefully, with humor and insight, that you won't realize at first
how skillfully she has covered some serious topics.
I agree with the Kirkus review that said The Almost Sisters
is "A satisfying, entertaining read from an admired writer who
deserves to be a household name."
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.