Kristin Hannah's bestselling 2008 novel, FIREFLY LANE, was a sweeping, decades-long exploration of the changeable, tumultuous but sustaining friendship between two women who came of age during the 1980s. Now Hannah follows the success of that book with TRUE COLORS, which will do for sisterhood what FIREFLY LANE did for women's friendships.
Reared on a horse ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains on Washington State's western coast, the three Grey girls are united at a young age by the shared loss of their beloved mother to cancer. Almost immediately, their stoic but grieving father effectively withdraws from the family, leaving his bereaved daughters to fend for themselves.
Oldest sister Winona, always the responsible one in the family, becomes the stand-in maternal figure for her younger sisters, Aurora and Vivi Ann. Winona, whose mother called her "big boned and beautiful" (even if Winona herself suspects she's just plain fat), performs her dedicated role beautifully, helping Aurora and Vivi Ann grow up into (mostly) happy young women while becoming a successful lawyer herself. But she harbors deep-seated resentment toward her father for being emotionally distant at best and downright cruel at worst, and she remains bitterly but secretly resentful of Vivi Ann, the baby of the family and her father's favorite.
Vivi Ann can do no wrong in her father's eyes; she inherited her mother's beauty and her skill with horses. Vivi Ann endears herself further to him by caring for her late mother's beloved horse, Clem, remaining on the ranch and eventually helping him run the place.
Winona can't stand her father's approval of Vivi Ann, nor can she tolerate her younger sister's unfailingly optimistic attitude toward their difficult father. When Vivi Ann gets involved with Winona's childhood sweetheart, Luke, Winona's jealousy bubbles to the surface, resulting in decades of misunderstandings and betrayals. And when Vivi Ann shocks her small community by running off with a handsome Native American stranger, Vivi Ann's rosy-hued picture of her narrow-minded father and of life in general will be sorely tested.
Like FIREFLY LANE, TRUE COLORS is truly the portrait of a relationship over the course of a lifetime. Beginning in 1979, when the Grey girls are teenagers, and extending to the present, the book traces the ways in which sisters can grow apart and come together again, often for surprising reasons and in unexpected ways. Readers will particularly enjoy watching how Vivi Ann's son, a troubled and violent boy who takes after his absent father, becomes the catalyst for Winona's redemption and the sisters' eventual reconciliation. As in many families, middle sister Aurora --- depicted generally as the fashionable "good girl" who marries a boring and ultimately disappointing man --- seems overlooked at times during the narrative. Clearly, Hannah's focus is on the compelling contrasts between Winona and Vivi Ann.
With strong, complex characterizations of these primary characters, rich descriptions of their breathtakingly beautiful surroundings and an unfailingly romantic atmosphere, TRUE COLORS is the kind of novel that will have sisters recognizing themselves and their relationships in its pages.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 23, 2011