Stork explores the complicated relationship of sisters and family in his latest book for teens. Teenage sisters Mary and Kate are very different, though they have been raised in the same sheltered way. Kate is planning to be a doctor and attend Stanford. Mary is an artist, a painter, who has already received acclaim for her work. But their plans are thrown into disarray when their father dies, leaving them only their mother who has been in a vegetative state for years. While their father was loving, he was also very strict. The girls are now free of his repressive ways, and they each respond to the new freedom in differently. The freedom though comes with a cost of new worries, new relationships, and new pressures. There are many decisions that have to be made, including one that is particularly heart wrenching.
This is a complicated novel that does not summarize easily. The characters are well developed and complex themselves, though I summarized each in a sentence, they are much more than that. These girls are different from one another but far from opposites. They are linked, closely and forever, together in sisterhood, a tie that strangles, binds and frees.
Stork also looks closely at family in this book. The cost of letting a family member go, the ways people deal with loss, and the process of recovery and reinvention are exposed here. He weaves the lives of the girls with unexpected characters, including a gang-member who is also an artist and a young minister who has no shortage of ambition. These characters too are complex and intriguing.
The minister is one of the pivotal characters in the book. His ambition mirrors Kate’s and the two find themselves drawn to one another. His logic about ambition and watching out for yourself rings true for a long time, until it changes and becomes hollow and crass. The writing to take a character’s message and transform the way it sounds over the course of a novel without changing the tone or message itself is beautifully done, masterful.
This compelling novel is quiet, desperate, and riveting. Appropriate for ages 15-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.
Also reviewed by: