07 Feb Sisters by Judith Barrow
Can their relationship survive tragedy and betrayal?
There’s no relationship quite like the sister one, is there? I’m a younger sister myself and both recognised and empathised with younger sister Mandy Marsden straight away!
Younger sisters do what they’re told by their older sister – even if that leads them into serious trouble.
Fortunately, the troubles my sister used to land me in resulted in no more than the occasional grounding. But for 13-year-old Mandy, the consequences are much more devastating.
Trusted with taking her cherished baby brother Robert for a walk, she gives in to big sister Angie’s demands to take charge of the pram. But Angie is more interested in showing off to boyfriend Stephen, and in a moment’s carelessness, lets the pram careen down a steeped cobbled slope.
It capsizes and baby Robert is killed – a tragedy that will affect both sisters for the rest of their lives.
This incident in itself would be enough to make a strong emotional story, but it takes a twist straightaway when Angie begs Mandy to take responsibility for the accident. After all, she reasons, their parents already think she is to blame – what is the point of damaging their relationship with both daughters?
The years pass but their paths never cross
The story that follows shows the devastating effect of the tragedy on the whole Marsden family.
Frozen out by her parents, Mandy makes a new life for herself with her loving aunt and uncle, while Angie, unable to face her parents’ pain day after day, runs away from home.
The years pass, but their paths never cross – until more tragedy brings them together as adults.
Can Mandy find forgiveness in her heart? Can Angie finally admit to the pain she has caused her younger sister?
There is still plenty drama to come before any sort of resolution can happen, all set against the backdrop of growing up in the 70s and 80s. Both dialogue and description give authenticity to the time setting.
Not everything is black and white
As I already mentioned, the sibling relationship between Mandy and Angie drew me into this book, and I was kept eagerly reading as the story raced along, exploring the strong themes of morality, guilt and forgiveness against a plot that has plenty continuing drama even after the death of baby Robert.
Told in a linear narrative, and alternating between Mandy and Angie’s viewpoints, the suspense here comes not from the revelation of secrets, but from the emotional pull of the two sisters’ experiences as they grow into adults.
Both are empathetic characters – you might expect to hate Angie not only for what she has done to her family, but for her refusal to face up to consequences, and her culpability in letting Mandy take the blame. But not everything is black and white, in fiction or real life, and I think her dilemma reflects accurately how any of us might react in this situation.
The story also explores whether family bonds are always strong enough to withstand the most incredible fractures.
Can Mandy and Angie’s shared happy memories and their parents’ continuing love for them – even if they can never fully forgive and forget the events of the past – bring them resolution and healing?
As a teenager, I would never have forgiven my sister if she had done to me what Angie did to Mandy.
Would I find mercy in my heart from an adult perceptive? Will Mandy?
It’s time to find out …
About the Author
Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years. She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor and holds workshops on all genres. She is the author of several books.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publishers Honno for the copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster
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