Review: Her Sister’s Shadow by Katharine Britton

Her Sister’s Shadow by Katharine Britton
Release Date: June 7th, 2011
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin)
Page Count: 352
Source: Received from publisher for review

An emotionally powerful debut about two sisters who reconnect after nearly forty years of estrangement.

Renowned painter Lilli Niles is at home in her North London flat when she receives an unexpected call from her elder sister, Bea, who’s at the family homestead in Whitehead, Massachusetts. Bea’s husband has just died, and she’d like Lilli to fly home to attend the funeral. There are reasons Lilli moved all the way to England to escape her older sister, reasons that have kept them estranged for decades. But something in Bea’s voice makes Lilli think it’s time to return to the stately house in New England she loved as a child, to the memory of the beloved younger sister they both lost. With Bea more fragile than Lilli remembered, maybe she can finally forgive Bea for a long-ago betrayal that has simmered between them for nearly forty years.

Review: Her Sister’s Shadow, Katharine Britton’s debut novel, will strike a familiar chord in the hearts of readers who have struggled through life hiding family secrets and nursing grudges and resentments that should have been put to rest years earlier.

Lillie Niles, third of four daughters of a widowed mother who cannot deal with the realities of her life, shakes the dust of White Harbor from her feet but not from her mind. Unable to view Bea, her oldest sister, as anything but controlling, she considers Bea’s marriage to the man she (Lillie) adores to be the final betrayal.

Guilt stemming from her own act of betrayal, as well as shattering tragedies for which she feels somehow responsible, sends Lillie spiraling upward to the pinnacle of lonely success. Forty years later, when a now-widowed Bea asks her to come home, Lillie makes a reluctant pilgrimage to a place where happy memories were too soon overshadowed by dark ones.

Ms. Britton has woven past and present into a seamless study of the human heart and its resilience in finding hope where none existed, understanding where a tangled web of lies prevailed, and strength to rebuild despite a determination not to do so.

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