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~~~HENRY'S SISTERS by CATHY LAMB~~~
~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~
Henry's Sisters is the first novel that I have read by this author, although she has written several; I will now definitely read more of her books as I found this one very well written and interesting. It is not my usual sort of book choice and I would not class it as a typical 'chic lit' read.
Cathy Lamb is an author from California, USA. She was employed as a teacher but gave this up when pregnant with twins. She has three children.
My paperback version of this book is published by Allison & Busby Limited, London.
The edition that I have recently read has a pretty, pink cover but I don't think this story is altogether pretty.
Henry's Sisters is about a troubled family and their history.
Henry's three sisters all have their troubles.
Isabelle Bonmarito has severe commitment problems. She 'loses' herself in sex but this is in the form of one night stands.
The book begins with Isabelle informing us that she will now have to burn her bra and her thong. We find out that Isabelle loves good pretty underwear but has many one night stands and after these events she burns her bra. Immediately we find that this character is strange and unconventional. At first I didn't like her but later changed my mind.
Isabelle is contacted by her fraternal twin sister, Cecilia. Cecilia is going through an acrimonious divorce from a cowardly and abusive husband. She turns to food for comfort and is becoming dangerously overweight. Isabelle and Cecilia both suffer 'sympathy' symptoms, or other strange affects, if the other twin is in pain or ill; Cecilia even 'senses' when her twin has had a one night stand. Cecilia insists that both Isabelle and younger sister Janie, return to the family home to help run the household as well as run the family bakery business as their mother will be indisposed for some time whilst undergoing a serious operation.
Isabelle visits the reclusive horror story writer Janie, on her houseboat. Janie is compulsive obsessive and follows many rituals. All sisters have problems and as the past is revealed one can easily understand why. They have been subjected to dire poverty and seen things that children should be shielded from. Life has been hard. Yet all three sisters still managed to achieve successful careers, which shows that however tough life may be they just won't lay down and die.
Both sisters are horrified at the thought of returning to their dictatorial mother who is manic depressive, domineering and has a spiteful, harsh tongue on her. But family duty and guilt laden pressure, supplied by Cecilia, force the sisters to return to the family home to help to take care of their much loved grandmother, who suffers from dementia and believes she is historic aviator, Amelia Earhart. And at home also lives the youngest sibling, although adult, Henry.
Henry, I believe has downs syndrome, although I don't think this condition is actually named in the book, but we are told that Henry is 'special' and that he certainly is. Everyone loves Henry and his sisters would fight to the death for him. Henry is one of those rare and seldom met people who are truly 'good.' Henry rises above bad things and bad people and remains good and very special.
Through Henry we see such a strong and heart-warming bond. We learn of the trials which have, so far, shaped their lives but, this book, for me, shows a wonderful tale of strength and fighting back. These women could so easily be victims but they choose not to be. True, they suffer but the way they come up fighting means that I just cannot see them as victims. They are survivors.
I would say that this novel is not an easy read. If you like something light hearted, and there's nothing wrong with that, then this is not for you. In fact this book is not at all my usual read. About a third of the way into the book I thought why am I reading something so different from my usual choice? I read at night before I turn out the light, to help me relax and, hopefully, have pleasant dreams. I found this book, at times, had me clenching my fists in fury, and even, at times, crying in sadness.
I thought the author wrote this book wonderfully with a lovely evocative style. As she wrote in the first person, from Isabelle's perspective I soon began to empathise with this character and really cared about her.
For me, this book had it all, warmth, humour, suspense, strong likeable characters and a good story line.
I felt the way in which the author, though Isabelle's memories, gave a great insight into why the sisters were as they were, when adult. The reminiscing fit perfectly into the story telling.
Cathy Lamb's writing soon had me completely absorbed into this story; I found it hard to put down.
When I purchased this book I chose it along with another two as a three for five pounds deal. I wasn't sure whether it was my type of read, mistakenly thinking it was probably a frivolous, light hearted read but thought it might have possibilities as one choice of the three books I was about to buy. I thought the cover was attractive (part picture of a female besides pretty pink cupcakes) and it smacked of 'chic lit 'to me. I don't mind chic lit at all but as a relaxing read and it isn't really my favourite genre, not the greatest reads I ever have but in the case of this book I feel that the cover and the blurb on the back of the book were very misleading indeed. I would not class this book as chic lit as, in my own opinion, it goes much deeper than that and is deep and at times even disturbing.
The blurb starts by saying:
"Curl up with Cathy Lamb, an author you will come to cherish, as she makes you laugh, cry and reach for the chocolate..."
Well to me that gives the impression that this book is a typical female, light hearted read...but it didn't have me reaching for chocolate...a glass of wine maybe! And, while cupcakes are pictured on both the front and back cover making, at least in my case, one think of nice, pleasant things this book isn't quite like that. Cupcakes are repeatedly mentioned as the family baked cupcakes, as well as other delights, as a means of surviving financially with their bakery business, and as a comfort to bake, decorate and consume in times of trouble.
But although I feel the impression given is misleading, I was pleasantly surprised that this book was more than a typical chic lit read. It had substance, grit and told a story of strength and great determination. Not only of strong family ties but of women who although they have deep seated problems they also show extreme strength and loyalty to their family.
One of the things that I most liked about this novel was the fact that the three sisters featured in this story all fought back mentally and at times very physically. I was rooting for them every step of the way.
~~AVAILABILITY AND PRICE~~
I think I purchased this book from Poundstretcher but I'm not entirely sure as it could have been from The Works. I am always buying books especially when I see deals such as this one which was one book for the price of £1.99 or three for £5.00.
It is available from Amazon for £6.07 and Waterstone's for £7.19.
Publisher-Allison & Busby