The Never Never Sisters
It’s been said that family secrets are often forged by fate --- that fine line drawn between what is and what is supposed to be, depending on which of two paths we take in life. These paths can either make or break us as we travel on a journey that leads to a place where human nature collides with long-held family confidences. That’s just what happens in THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS, a great summer read by L. Alison Heller. With expert precision, Heller has written her second book, utilizing an artist’s flair for detail. She has intertwined a razor-sharp wit with her characters’ personal challenges --- distinguishing the truth from lies --- and thus producing a literary crescendo of familiar scenarios, involving past indiscretions, which allows readers to follow along on their own similar journey.
By forging this commonality between her characters and audience, the storyline becomes more personal and, in turn, mesmerizing. Personally, I found following the Reinhardt family, as they explored the secrets holding their own truths together, very entertaining. With a refreshing eloquence, readers are allowed to feel the betrayal that each family member experiences, as they question the how and why of past misunderstandings. When a writer challenges a family in turmoil and exposes unique character flaws, the stage can be set for an erosion of wills, which in turn can pull readers further into the dynamics of the storyline. Conversely, by concealing a secret that has led to family estrangement, a story can become that much more relatable to an audience. Consequently, when readers feel these connections to the story, the experience can be so much more enjoyable.
"Writing with such an engaging voice, [Heller's'] carefully crafted story immediately pulls readers into this contemporary novel, and women everywhere can easily identify with the storyline, since the characters are so intricately placed and true to life."
Heller undoubtedly proves that she is familiar with how important it is to make this connection with her readers and to parallel it with the family dynamics of her storyline. Yes, it is evident that there are many communication problems between characters in the story, and yes, the underlying thread is apparent. Truth is the key to finding yourself, and the ability to link a shifting fate to the mysteries of intuition is the ultimate closure. Masterfully, the Reinhardt family is led to the healing of tattered relationships --- when the truth finally sets them free --- by a very talented storyteller, whose unyielding pen forces each of them to be propelled toward their own connection to the truth, defying any of them to turn away.
It’s understood that many families have well-kept secrets, and rarely will you find one with no skeletons in their closet, since real life isn’t built that way. The Reinhardt family is a complex group of individuals with a myriad of reasons to keep secrets, but if nondisclosure is one of them and it can take on energy of its own, do you really want to be unable to identify possible earth-shattering events?
Being the eldest of two daughters in the Reinhardt family, Paige has always been the good girl, the one who never made any waves in her placid family. That is, until that fateful day when she realizes that all the areas of silence that she thought were normal in a family weren’t. Finding out that her “here and now” has been violated by past infidelities has quite an impact on her life. As she tries to move forward with her career as a marriage counselor and her life in general, even Paige realizes she has no guarantees for a bright future ahead.
Deception is a hard blow for Paige to take, and learning that even those closest to her can strike the heaviest blow shakes her belief in the concept of trust. This life lesson, though distasteful, also enables her to loosen the strings on some relationships and to reinforce others. So, with the realization that a much-needed romantic vacation in the Hamptons with her workaholic husband, Dave, has to be postponed because of a work crisis at his firm, Paige begins to come to grips with problems in her marriage and to question Dave’s obvious withdrawal from her and their marriage vows.
Unfortunately, this is not all Paige has to be concerned with, and, true to form, bad news does happen in threes. Compounding her marriage problems, Paige’s long-lost sister reappears, which only adds to her stress. After finding out about her mom’s past indiscretions, her planned summer of fun is now complicated by a debilitating state of affairs in dealing with more secrets. It’s really kind of funny when you think about it: a marriage counselor grappling with issues in her own marriage and within her family, wondering if it’s worth it to risk the most precious relationships in order to find herself.
Obviously, Heller made this Paige’s story and rightfully so. Paige is the glue that holds the novel together, while her sister, mother and husband make it come alive with their hidden agendas. Even the “quiet strength” of her father, at the end of the book, turned the tide on his vulnerability within the confines of the story. Surprisingly, this evolution of characters makes the transitions that impact Paige (her marriage to Dave and how his “lie” affects their marriage, plus her new-found connection to Sloane) possible, and Heller is able to utilize the one constant throughout the book --- family secrets --- to create a story as old as time, but with a twist. She meshes the sustenance of two supporting characters into the storyline --- Giovanni, Sloane’s significant other, and Percy, a potential love connection for Paige --- in such an unobtrusive yet controlled way, making it possible and plausible for both men to slip easily into prominent roles.
Without a doubt, L. Alison Heller has captured the true essence of friendship, family and love in THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS. Writing with such an engaging voice, her carefully crafted story immediately pulls readers into this contemporary novel, and women everywhere can easily identify with the storyline, since the characters are so intricately placed and true to life. As Heller explores the very complicated bond between sisters and the secrets kept to protect loved ones, it is quite apparent and somewhat strangely comforting to know that we are not alone in this mystery called family, secrets and all.
Reviewed by Donna Smallwood on June 27, 2014
The Never Never Sisters
- Publication Date: June 3, 2014
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: NAL Trade
- ISBN-10: 0451416244
- ISBN-13: 9780451416247