23 May 2017

Little Sister by Barbara Gowdy

Summary from Goodreads:
Thunderstorms are rolling across the summer sky. Every time one breaks, Rose Bowan loses consciousness and has vivid, realistic dreams about being in another woman's body.

Is Rose merely dreaming? Or is she, in fact, inhabiting a stranger? Disturbed yet entranced, she sets out to discover what is happening to her, leaving the cocoon of her family’s small repertory cinema for the larger, upended world of someone wildly different from herself. Meanwhile her mother is in the early stages of dementia, and has begun to speak for the first time in decades about another haunting presence: Rose’s younger sister.

In LITTLE SISTER, one woman fights to help someone she has never met, and to come to terms with a death for which she always felt responsible. With the elegant prose and groundbreaking imagination that have earned her international acclaim, Barbara Gowdy explores the astonishing power of empathy, the question of where we end and others begin, and the fierce bonds of motherhood and sisterhood.

Little Sister is one of those books that has such a good premise and idea behind the characters but then gets really underserved by the construction. The book takes so long to get to WHY Rose becomes so obsessed with Harriet and how the two of them might be connected (or not) that I was having trouble staying with the story.  And then it doesn't really dig into whether Rose was actually having visions, or just migraines, or if there truly was something supernatural.  For a short novel it should not have taken me this long to read. The mother, Fiona, was a great character and one of the few times that I've read an aging parent with dementia who is portrayed sympathetically but also given a three-dimensional personality beyond the mental deterioration.

Dear FTC: Thanks to Tin House Galley Club for the ARC.

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