Review: The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller

The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Group- NAL Group
Pages: 323
Source: book provided by the publisher for review

 

 

An absorbing, highly entertaining novel about family secrets, The Never Never Sisters introduces you to the strong-willed and big-hearted Reinhardt women, as they reunite one summer in New York. Gifted storyteller L. Alison Heller has written another witty and moving page-turner that will captivate readers and keep them guessing right up until the satisfying end.

Sometimes you just need to get away….

Marriage counselor Paige Reinhardt is counting down the days to summer, eager to reconnect with her workaholic husband at their cozy rental cottage in the Hamptons. But soon a mysterious crisis at Dave’s work ruins their getaway plans. Paige is still figuring out how to handle the unexplained chill in her marriage when her troubled sister suddenly returns after a two-decade silence. Now, instead of enjoying the lazy summer days along the ocean, Paige is navigating the rocky waters of a forgotten bond with her sister in the sweltering city heat.

As she attempts to dig deeper into Dave’s work troubles and some long-held family secrets, Paige is shocked to discover how little she knows about the people closest to her. This summer, the self-proclaimed relationship expert will grapple with her biggest challenge yet: Is it worth risking your most precious relationships in order to find yourself?

 

Review:  I have always had this habit of putting myself in the shoes of a character in a book and trying to imagine what I would think, do, or feel if I were them. I’ve been scolded by some reviewers for indulging in this habit because I am supposed to see the characters for who they are and consider actions based on that.

However, I simply could not get past some of the things Paige let go. Yes, she was a marriage counselor and she considered herself trained in maintaining relationships. So, when her husband, Dave tells her he has been suspended from work and he doesn’t know why, Paige’s response is rather muted.

To add to the situation with her husband, Paige’s sister, Sloane returns home for a visit after many years of estrangement from the family. Again, Paige accepts this with little interest.

As the mystery deepens with Dave, Paige begins to suspect him of some kind of illegal activity that landed him a suspension. So, because he has been less than forthcoming, Paige decides to do a little digging with the help of one of her sister’s acquaintances.

Another interesting thing is Paige stumbling across some old journals her mother had written way back when Sloane was going through a very bad patch. Knowing it is wrong to read the journals and feeling guilty for intruding on her mother’s innermost thoughts, she can’t seem to tear herself away from them. The discovery enlightens Paige to some facts about her family she had never considered.

This story has many layers that involve Paige and how she tends to compartmentalize her relationships. After her sister went away, Paige no longer even thought of Sloane as a family member. Paige knows her mother has always depended on her to be the dependable daughter, the daughter who does all the right things, unlike Sloane. I really think this shaped Paige into the person she became as an adult. Her job as a therapist, the marriage to Dave, her approach to his sudden changes, the reaction to Sloane, all of it seemed so subdued I wanted to shake her. So, that is why I got so frustrated. If my husband pulled that kind of a stunt it would not have gone on for an entire summer. I would never have put up with any of that. No. way. Ever.

Now the family dynamic part of the story would give a psychiatrist enough to work on for a lifetime. Sloane suffered from a relationship with her mother that was the polar opposite of how Paige interacted with Vanessa. Sloane had problems and I suppose Vanessa felt some kind of intense guilt or pain and so she went overboard trying to win Sloane over, while Sloane remained unimpressed. It was hard to judge Vanessa too harshly. She made some mistakes with her oldest daughter, which causes her to make mistakes with Paige. I did notice some slight intuitions from Vanessa that made me wonder if she was subconsciously aware of a problem in Paige’s marriage. She was nice enough to Dave but she occasionally gave off the impression she felt more comfortable dealing with personal family issues without his presence.

Sloane loves Paige even if she is perhaps a bit jealous of her initially. She is still a hard person, but probably the most real of all these characters, although some readers may find her a little crass in the beginning and of course we are not sure we can trust her.

Thankfully, Paige will be shaken awake from the slumber that she has been living her life in and a new perspective will emerge even if she is somewhat gun shy, which would be understandable.

The blurb uses the word “absorbing” in describing this book and it certainly is that.

Since there are so many different relationships to examine this would be a great book club book. There could be some lively debate about this one. I did enjoy the writing and the outcome will leave you with a feeling that while things are never going to be just peachy for Paige and Sloane, things are going to be much better than they were before.

 

Julie