Sisterchicks in Sombreros
In an interview on FaithfulReader.com earlier this year, I asked Robin Jones Gunn if her "sisterchick" characters would always be sisters in Christ; she answered, "This will be an interesting angle to explore in these books." Little did I know --- and savvy of her not to say --- that her next book, already written, would address this angle. Fortysomething sisters Joanne and Melanie are certainly not diametrically opposed; Joanne does attend church, after all. But while Melanie's life is centered on her personal relationship with God, Joanne's is centered on the daily dilemmas of family life.
For Joanne, the devil is in the details: organizing and planning have become a form of serenity. When the sisters discover that they have inherited a vague piece of property in Mexico, Joanne is the one who tries to make everything flow perfectly. Jones Gunn has used this character device in the first two Sisterchicks books, mainly to show that things are out of our hands --- humans can't try to make things go the way they want them to. Here, she quietly but effectively shows that Joanne has allowed her need for control to cover up her lack of inner peace. The women start off on a cruise ship because of their aunt's generosity and well-maintained status as a preferred passenger on the line. When they run into an eccentric and likable group of women throwing a fabulous chocolate-tasting party, they first hear the term "sisterchicks" --- and Joanne sees in those spontaneous, exuberant ladies qualities that she not only lacks, but also covets.
Soon, Joanne gets the opportunity for spontaneity when she and Melanie discover that they are going to have to rent a car and drive to their deceased uncle's property in order to meet a legal deadline. When they then arrive and see that their inheritance is apparently a lot containing an Airstream trailer, they're a bit downcast. Guess what? They haven't seen the big picture --- and when they do, Joanne is so amazed that she opens up to her sister's spiritual guidance in an entirely new way.
Like the earlier Sisterchicks books, the characters experience both joys and difficulties, and these are interwoven with scenes from the local culture that are meant to show sisterchicks can learn from experiences quite foreign to them. In SISTERCHICKS ON THE LOOSE they took a Finnish sauna and in SISTERCHICKS DO THE HULA tried a Hawaiian lei-making class. The sombrero-sporting sisterchicks wind up needing overnight accommodations and meet an extremely poor and generous Mexican woman who embodies Christian hospitality. It is a credit to Jones Gunn that she does not allow this character to lapse into stereotype or flatness.
At the end of the interview, Jones Gunn wrote, "Being a sisterchick…becomes a validation that within the heart of a sisterchick grows a deeply rooted relationship with Christ." Melanie experiences growth (and will probably experience some change, too), but it is Joanne whose sisterchick experience, newly hatched as it were, is most interesting in this installment.
Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick on September 28, 2004