Book review: Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah

Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah
Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah

They say blood is thicker than water… but the love between two sisters has turned to a thin trickle after a callous betrayal 26 years ago.

And when all that the two women now hold dear seems to be worlds apart, can the rift ever truly be healed?

Kristin Hannah, author of the runaway bestseller The Nightingale – a gripping tale of love and endurance set in France during the Second World War – heads closer to her home in Seattle for a moving and bittersweet tale of a family in crisis.

Hannah has made the complex dynamics between sisters, mothers and daughters her trademark motif in a raft of acutely observant novels and here she explores the all-too-familiar joys and sorrows of family relationships, the mistakes we make in the name of love, and the eternal hope for redemption.

Meghann Dontess and Claire Cavenaugh had different fathers but shared the same feckless mother, a woman who had a string of husbands who were never around ‘for longer than a carton of milk’ and eventually walked out and left them both to fend for themselves.

Decades later, 42-year-old Meghann is a high-flying, smart-talking divorce lawyer. She lives in a luxury apartment in Seattle, drives brand new Porsche and struggles to hide her soft, sensitive inner core under a crusty outer layer.

Twenty-six years ago she made a terrible choice that cost her everything, including the love of her younger sister Claire, 35, who now runs a small town cabin resort with her father Sam on the banks of the flood-prone Skykomish River.

Successful Meghann claims she’s not lonely, ‘just independent,’ but her past is ‘an oversize Samsonite with a bum wheel’ and all she can do is ‘drag it along behind her.’ Claire, meanwhile, is happy with her life, her dad and her much-loved five-year-old daughter Ali.

Meghann has put all thoughts of love completely behind her… until she meets Joe Wyatt, a mysterious drifter haunted by guilt, nightmares and memories, and the one man who believes he can change her mind.

Claire has fallen in love for the first time in her life and as her wedding to singer Bobby Austin draws near, she prepares to face Meghann, her strong-willed older sister who is now only connected to her by ‘the thinnest of strands.’

Reunited once more, these two women who believe they have nothing in common will try to become what they never were… a family. But before they can even start to reconcile the past, ‘the polite strangers who shared a blood type and an ugly childhood’ must face a tougher battle than either of them had expected…

Hannah fills her novels with the tender, truthful and funny moments which make the whole concept of ‘family’ such an eclectic and fascinating rollercoaster ride. Both Meghann and Claire spring to life with stunning authenticity, the essence of their personalities and relationship so vividly portrayed that readers feel engrossed and invested in their hopes, fears and dreams.

Their past is a gone-but-not-forgotten country, littered with pain, misunderstandings, emotional lies and bitterness, but they cannot shake off their family bonds and shared experiences. Whether they can let go of that troubled past and finally embrace their differences – and the future – lies at the heart of this moving, compelling and powerful story.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)