On the surface, sisters Meghann Dontess and Claire Cavenaugh couldn't be more different. Forty-two-year-old Meghann, a high-powered Seattle divorce lawyer, is known as the "Bitch of Belltown." She lives alone in an expensive high rise and counters loneliness with one-night stands. Younger sister Claire, in contrast, is surrounded by love --- from her doting father, her five-year-old daughter Alison and the group of women friends, the Bluesers, she has had since high school. Small town life in Hayden (45 minutes north of Seattle) and looking after her father's campground suit her right down to the tee. Her relationship with her older sister is fraught with tension and innuendo, so she's never really been in love --- that's life, right?
That is until Claire meets Mr. Right on her annual summer vacation with the Bluesers. Bobby Austin takes the stage during a band break. At thirty-five, Claire falls in love for the first time. Luckily for her, Bobby is equally smitten and, back in Hayden, they quickly make plans to marry.
Meanwhile, Meghann's stress level has been raised to an unbearable pitch. A client's enraged ex-husband tries to shoot her and Meghann's partner forces her to take a vacation. She visits Hayden, not really having any place else to go. When she can't talk Claire out of getting married, she impulsively offers to plan her sister's wedding. As the pages turn, we learn that Meghann and Claire weren't always so distant. Megan was actually more of a mother than an older sister to Claire, due to the shenanigans of their oft-married, stripper/actress mother.
Then there's the seemingly unconnected Joe, a melancholy drifter who eventually goes home to Hayden to face his sister Gina (one of the Bluesers) and his ghosts.
All kinds of sparks fly in the small town of Hayden, between Meghann and her sister Claire, as well as between Joe and Meghann. Gradually the sisters break down the barriers between them. We get to meet their kooky, flighty mother, Claire gets married and it looks like everything will work out fine. Finally, a medical crisis forces the family to confront the realities of love. If you've gotten this far without crying, it won't be long now.
Kristin Hannah is very good at what she does. Her use of detail, from drink choices to clothing brands, creates vivid portraits of the characters. Seattle area readers may especially enjoy recognizing the numerous place references. The pace of the story is mostly excellent, although Joe's re-entry into his real life after his mysterious trauma seems a little slow to me. A nice twist comes when Meghann's best friend turns out to be Birdie, a.k.a. Elizabeth Shore, from DISTANT SHORES, one of Ms. Hannah's previous novels. BETWEEN SISTERS is a well crafted read, one that will not disappoint the growing legions of Kristin Hannah fans.
Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman-Nicol on January 21, 2011