The Almost Sisters
by Joshilyn Jackson
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.
Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.
It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight-year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.
Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.
She’d had suitors as a girl, but no one good enough in Ellis Birch’s proud, paternal eyes. He had discouraged them, which was a euphemism. One of the Mack boys had been discouraged all the way to the state line.
Martina looked down her nose at me, tilting her head back and flaring her nostrils so wide I could practically see all the way up into the dark cavity where her brains ought to have been. “My daughter took me to see Arsenic and Old Lace over at the Montgomery theater. I know what’s what!”
In my darkest hours. Rachel enveloped me in strong, medicinal hugs, firm and sure, like I was a tube of sad toothpaste and she was trying to squeeze every bit of sorrow out of me.
In Birchville gossip was called “news,” and having some was social currency. I’d just handed Alston and the Franklins big fat wads of it to spend, and gossip waited for no exhausted dog. Alston picked him up and tucked him under her arm like a hairy clutch purse, then bustled away up the street.
I reveled, cherished, adored, loved, and savored this book from beginning to end. It was keenly insightful, wittily amusing, smartly written, brilliantly detailed, cleverly plotted, and well-paced. Joshilyn Jackson certainly knows how to spin a tale and gives new meaning to Southern eccentricity, as all of her characters were fascinating, quirky, and well fleshed out. She apparently has extensive knowledge of old guard Southern small town narrow-mindedness and religious hypocrisy, as her depictions were clever and highly entertaining while also masterful and keenly accurate. I don’t remember seeing her in the tiny inbred pastoral community of my youth, but clearly, she was there, hiding somewhere. The captivating and intriguing storyline contained skillful humor and deft plot twists along with several entertaining and perilous threads, secrets tucked into each chapter, and thoughtful conundrums from the past and present to resolve. I felt a bit forlorn at reaching the end as I could easily keep reading about these enticing and engaging characters well into perpetuity.
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Posted by Joshilyn Jackson on Tuesday, June 6, 2017
About the Author
Jackson’s latest novel, THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE, is now out in paperback. Her new book, THE ALMOST SISTERS, launches July 11th, 2017
New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson is the author of gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and Someone Else’s Love Story. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, twice been a #1 Book Sense Pick, and three times been shortlisted for the Townsend prize. A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of her novels; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, and garnered two Listen Up Awards from Publisher’s Weekly.
She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband, their two children, and way too many feckless animals.