Bridget has always looked up to her older sister, Meghan. Orphaned as children, the two drew close and assumed their roles: Meghan the leader and Bridget the follower. Now, as the host of the top-rated morning television show "Rise and Shine," Meghan lives a life of intellectual challenge and glamour while Bridget toils as a social worker in the poverty-stricken Bronx.
Bridget is single but feels that Meghan's family, her husband Evan and son Leo are her family as well. The two sisters talk often on the phone; they also run together and eat breakfast every Saturday morning. It's a rut but a cozy, comfortable one that Bridget enjoys. She also enjoys basking in Meghan's reflected glory as she accompanies her sister to glittering social events. But then her whole world changes.
Meghan blurts out a profanity on the air, appalling (and titillating) the nation. That's stunning enough, but her apology on the show the next morning is patently false. Bridget can't reach her sister. She's shocked to find Evan waiting for her at work; she's even more shocked when he confides that he and Meghan have split up, at his instigation. Bridget realizes that the split might be the fuel behind her sister's enormous career mistake.
Bridget herself is furious on behalf of her sister, but she also considers Evan's move to be a personal affront, as if she's losing a beloved brother. Suddenly it feels as if Bridget's life is unraveling. Evan pleads with Bridget to help Meghan through the current phase, but Bridget can't track her down. When the sisters finally do connect, Bridget is torn between wanting to comfort her sister and being afraid to offer comfort. Meghan decides she'll travel to Jamaica for a vacation in hopes that the hubbub will die down.
Bridget's life goes on. She spends time with her lover, Irving, and counsels poverty-stricken women living in the projects. After Meghan leaves, Evan takes off for Tokyo. Bridget discovers that her college-aged nephew Leo, who has been in Spain, is coming home. She meets him at the airport, braced to tell him the double whammy bad news. But she doesn't need to.
"Rise and shine" is the greeting Meghan used to waken Bridget to each new day while they were growing up. Will Bridget be able to pull off that daily command with Meghan completely removed from her life? Are the sisters' roles so ingrained that Bridget will be hobbled by not playing the part of younger sister to a major celebrity?
A compelling page-turner, RISE AND SHINE succeeds on so many levels. Bridget is a sympathetic main character who strives to reinvent herself as her life circumstances evolve. Gritty details of Bridget's social work feel all too real --- the perfect contrast to our glimpse of Manhattan's privileged wealthy. Apart from the excellent read, who couldn't be fascinated by a writer who gives us nuggets to ponder such as this?:
"I loved it," I said, which like most simple declarative sentences was an oversimplification merged with a lie and overlaid by the mists of blessed memory.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (email@example.com) on January 23, 2011
Rise and Shine