The Sister Season: A Novel. Jennifer Scott. NAL Trade: Penguin Group USA. November 2013. 368 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451418814.
Clare, Julia and Maya Yancy have come home, home to celebrate Christmas and bury their father. Their mother, Elise, is trying so desperately hard to make it a festive time but she seems most of the time to be thinking how she wants it to be and really not surprised that every day seems a more intensified form of dysfunctional disasters a la bickering, sarcastic comments, and threats. These are the dysfunctional children of an abusive father whom no one is really mourning at all. If anything, they all seem rather relieved!
Maya believes one of her sisters had something going with her husband, never bothered to truly listen to what had happened and is dealing with a serious illness as well. One of their children is suicidal and the mother spends a heck of a lot of time beating herself up figuratively speaking for her neglect of this once happy and delightful son.
Elise knows something more about her husband’s death and she’s not about to share that with anyone, even though not one of them would have a problem with her secret. The reader wonders whether Elise is really grieving as she seems to be caught up in memories at the oddest moments and oblivious to whatever is being discussed right in front of her. Perhaps age is taking its toll more than she realizes?
How did such a romantic man turn into such a verbal and physical abuser who never had a kind word for anyone and who was feared by everyone in the house. One could hardly call this a home under such a constant threatening atmosphere! How could one be other than grossly dysfunctional. It has made one daughter terrified of committing herself to any romantic bond, even though one has recently appeared that would be sheer delight for anyone.
The Secret Season is a very intense read, heavy and at times as oppressive as the atmosphere depicted. For this alone Jennifer Scott deserves accolades, although it’s not a pleasant experience. But more than that is the fact that these sisters have to learn to face each other with care, stop navel gazing, forgive (although one could never forget what they have endured) and be there for each other as well as their Mom. The book is carefully crafted with pivotal moments carefully placed in a solid plot that moves after a slow beginning. Nice writing and very appropriate themes as the holidays approach for families of all!