Sister by A. Manette Ansay

SisterSister by A. Manette Ansay
Published by Harper Perennial

From the publisher:

Abigail Schiller lives a seemingly normal childhood in a rural Catholic community in Wisconsin. But that life is shattered when her younger brother, Sam, vanishes at the age of seventeen, fleeing their father’s rigid rules of masculinity and the violence their mother denies. Finally, thirty years old and expecting a child of her own, Abby is determined to retrace her lost sibling’s dark descent–embarking upon an emotional journey that will test the strength of her spirit, and contradict everything, she once believed about her family and herself.

A stunning work of rare poignancy and unsettling power, A. Manette Ansay’s Sister marks the literary maturation of a truly exceptional voice in contemporary American fiction. Deftly spinning triumph out of tragedy, the award-winning author of Vinegar Hill offers us a fresh understanding, of family, memory, faith. Abigail Schiller lives in a seemingly normal childhood in a rural Catholic community in Wisconsin. But that life is shattered when her younger brother, Sam, vanishes at the age of seventeen, fleeing their father’s rigid rules of masculinity and the violence their mother denies. Finally, thirty years old and expecting a child of her own, Abby is determined to retrace her lost sibling’s dark descent–embarking upon an emotional journey that will test the strength of her spirit, and contradict everything she once believed her family and herself.

I’ve had this book on my TBR shelves forever. During the heyday of Oprah’s Book Club, I read and loved Ansay’s Vinegar Hill (about which I remember nothing), so I grabbed this one at a used book store years ago hoping to one day pick it up. I think this is the kind of novel I have to be in a particular mood for: quiet family drama where there is a big thing in the background, but generally speaking not much happens. The best thing I can say about this novel is that the writing was good and I halfheartedly cared about the characters. Is that bad? It was just okay.

One thing that bothered me immensely about the book is that Abigail’s father is extremely abusive and that abuse is never discussed or dealt with in any real way. As this is the second book in a row I’ve read with a similar abusive family situation that is not addressed, it particularly bothered me. He’s verbally, emotionally, sexually and mildly physically abusive. It was all kinds of terrible, and yet Abigail never once addresses it with either of her parents. It was difficult to read about, especially because it was clear that Abigail and Sam were truly damaged by the abuse they suffered and unable to voice their anger about it.

The ending was generally what I was expecting, so it wasn’t disappointing exactly, just not shocking at all. It was … boring? I guess is the best way to put it.

I was hoping for more from Sister. I certainly didn’t hate the novel but it was just okay.

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4 thoughts on “Sister by A. Manette Ansay

  1. I recently read another book like that with an abusive father and it was never discussed. It’s odd that the author would add that and then just sort of “leave” it. Makes you wonder if the author even noticed what sort of picture he or she was making!

    1. It was odd and kind of irritating. We know, as humans, that this kind of abuse is critically important to the person someone becomes, so why not address it?

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