After a tragic accident on Martha’s Vineyard, keeping secrets becomes a way of life for the Tangle family. With memories locked away, the sisters take divergent paths. Callie disappears, Mimi keeps so busy she has no time to think, and Ginger develops a lifelong aversion to risk that threatens the relationships she holds most dear.
When a whispered comment overheard by her rebellious teenage daughter forces Ginger to reveal a long-held family secret, the Tangles’ carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. Upon the death of Glory, the family’s colorful matriarch, and the return of long-estranged Callie, Ginger resolves to return to Martha’s Vineyard and piece together what really happened on that calamitous day when a shadow fell over four sun-kissed siblings playing at the shore. Along with Ginger’s newfound understanding come the keys to reconciliation: with her mother, with her sisters, and with her daughter.
At turns heartbreaking, humorous, and hopeful, Sisters One, Two, Three explores not only the consequences of secrets—even secrets kept out of love—but also the courage it takes to speak the truth, to forgive, and to let go.
Mother-daughter relationships have been the backbone of many novels, and they are the substance of Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star. With a colorful cast of characters and a strong sense of nostalgia, the novel tells about the relationships within the Tangle family—the sisters Ginger, Mimi, and Callie, and their mother Glory and father Solly. It spans childhoods spent on Martha’s Vineyard and the troubles and challenges of family life in the modern world.
The best way to describe the childhood of the Tangle children is “unstructured”. It is the 1970s and far from the modern practice of putting children in clubs and camps for the summer, Glory Tangle drags her children along on her narcissistic attempts to capture attention. Convinced she has a future as a performer, Glory heads for the Vineyard in an attempt to liven up her boring, suburban life. When the children arrive, they are left to explore on their own and are completely unsupervised. Glory is not a sympathetic character and when the “big problem” happened in this novel, blame for it can clearly be placed at her feet for her lack of supervision of her children.
The book then traces the children to adulthood. Ginger has become a worrier who alienates her daughter with her smothering tendencies. Mimi is living the life of a carefree artist. And no one quite knows where Callie is. Since the story jumps back and forth in the timeline, the reader puzzles out how their childhood contributed to the adults they became. Unfortunately, the adults did not seem as multifaceted as they might be, and each became of caricature of the “responsible one”, “the wild one”, and “the mysterious one”.
The “big problem” happens about halfway through the novel. Truthfully, the story suffered with its inclusion. I felt as though I was reading a book about the complex relationships within a family, and then it turned out that I was really reading a book about an obscure tragedy. (I honestly would not have been surprised if there would have been statistics on this particular tragedy and steps to prevent it in an afterward.) This turn came too late in the story to be the particular focus, and to be honest, I preferred the book when it was just about the sisters and their relationship to their eccentric mother.
So, on one level, Sisters One, Two, Three worked for me, but as a response to tragic event, it did not.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Regina