17 April 2014

Two Sisters, by Mary Hogan

If you want a secret kept safe, Muriel is the one to tell it to. In her entire life, the only connection she had with her beautiful and worshipped mother, Lidia, and equally mesmerizing sister, Pia, are the things she's seen or gone through with them, or because of them. Never once, though, has Muriel broken her promises and told a soul. With her father emotionally absent and bonded to his only son, Logan, and Lidia and Pia always excluding others, Muriel continues to be the outcast in a family of four who accidentally had a fifth.

Now an adult at twenty-three and living in New York with an entry level job, Muriel still keeps her promises, but limits her time with family. She prefers Sundays securely snug in the comfort and safety of her tiny fourth-floor walk-up apartment, eating popcorn while on the bed and reading the Times. Planning the day starts off like any other, but when her perfect sister Pia, now living in Connecticut with the perfect husband, house, and daughter, unexpectedly calls to spend Sunday with her, little does she know her entire life will change. What Muriel once thought about her family turns upside-down and sideways as relationships are scrutinized, past events are inspected again, all because of one more secret Pia has to share.

No matter how odd it may sound that I loved a story so sad and heartbreaking, Two Sisters resulted in just that. Beautifully written, Muriel's sad story is oftentimes difficult to read, frustration seeping in for the reader as Lidia and Pia dig at Muriel, cruelly teasing Muriel's hair, shape, and more. With reminders that being the odd man out in any situation can feel horrible, within a family, it can be damaging.

I couldn't put down Two Sisters and ended up flying through it in a day. It was an excellent change of pace from my current reading preferences, and I enjoyed every page. With truly nasty, unlikable characters throughout, Muriel's the ultimate underdog, and I cheered her on. While things tied up a little too neatly for my preferences, I loved Muriel's story, her quiet attempts to bond with her sister and mother tugging at my heartstrings.

Mary Hogan has a gift when writing the voice of the tortured soul excluded from others, and I'm eager to read more from her. I've heard that this is her first foray into adult fiction, with seven previously published books in the YA genre, so I'm excited to dive more into her work when her next adult novels come out.

Book club readers will definitely feel inclined to share their own personal family stories after reading Two Sisters. There is much to think about and mull over with others, and the simultaneously sweet and harsh message that sometimes you have to look at who you are, instead of always thinking everyone else is the problem, might hit home for many. The words lift from the page, pulling you into Muriel's world and I happily went into it, no matter how sad it sometimes could be.

FTC Disclosure: I accepted this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: 3/4/2014
Pages: 384

About the Author
Mary Hogan is the award-winning author of seven Young Adult novels, and is also a writer for several national magazines, including her most recent article featured in Woman's Day about her mother, sister, and herself. (I'm going to have to read that one now, too!)  She lives in New York City with her husband and her dog Lucy. Two Sisters is her first mainstream adult fiction book. And it is good.

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  1. A one day read? Wow! This one is on my TBR list too.

  2. It's wonderful when a book draws you in so completely. I liked your description of how Muriel spends her Sundays. Adding to tbr list.

  3. This does sound like one that would be excellent for a book club to discuss.