Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Book Review: The Sweeney Sisters

By Jami Deise

If you miss those great Nancy Meyers rich people rom-coms, with the beach settings and the clothes and the houses with amazing kitchens, Lian Dolan’s latest novel, The Sweeney Sisters, may be right up your alley. Plot, character, setting, and dialogue all come together smoothly to create a colorful tale perfect for these shut-in days, and very reminiscent of Meyers’ films.

Adult sisters Liza, Maggie, and Tricia grew up in preppy Southport, Connecticut, the red-haired daughters of literary giant Bill Sweeney. It’s been fifteen years since their mother Maeve died of cancer, and Bill dies in his sleep one June evening. Now the sisters—perfect housewife Liza, who lives down the street from their childhood compound Willow Lake, flighty artist “Mad Maggie,” and perfectionist lawyer Tricia—must find the hidden memoir that Bill owed his publisher. But when the will is read, a secret is revealed: Bill fathered a child with their next-door neighbor. Serena Tucker is the fourth Sweeney sister.

As much as I loved all the visual details, for me, this book was a deep dive on how to develop character. I tend to be drawn toward more plot-driven work, so I found Dolan’s book educational as well as entertaining. Bill Sweeney is never shown alive, but through his daughters’ recollections, he appears as larger-than-life as they describe him. All four sisters are vividly, uniquely drawn, and Dolan gives them all very specific voices. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Dolan has four sisters of her own. After finishing the book, I felt like part of their family.

My only quibble is that Dolan uses an omniscient viewpoint, which has fallen out of favor lately as “head-hopping” confuses readers. I was expecting to get each sisters’ viewpoint, but when the point-of-view changed to their conversation partner, I found it distracting.

While the sibling interaction in the story is timeless, The Sweeney Sisters is also a timely reminder of what a can of worms those over-the-counter DNA tests are. Since many of us have a lot more time to read than we ever did before, I recommend Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance as a non-fiction chaser to this novel.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lian Dolan:

1 comment:

Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.