Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sister Dear, by Laura McNeill

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start.  But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?
Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.
But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.
As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.

My Thoughts:
This book simply by it's name intrigued me because anyone who's grown up with a sister can relate to the tension sibling rivalry can induce-or maybe it's just me??

Ms. McNeill tells a story with a cast of four point-of-view characters. Allie, the convicted murderer; Emma, the younger sister who's finally spread her wings from beneath the shadow of her perfect sister; Caroline, the teenage daughter of Allie who struggles to acknowledge her criminal mother; and Sheriff Gaines, the law enforcer who put Allie in prison the first time and doesn't need her return to his town to unearth any secrets-even the truth.

It was hard for me to connect to any of these characters in the beginning of the story as each chapter switched to another character without allowing me enough time or reason to invest in their struggle on a personal level. Each of their chapters (except Caroline's) would slip from present time to a memory of the past allowing me to see pieces of the puzzle come together to form the suspense and mystery of the story.

I was immediately intrigued by Allie's situation. Incarcerated for ten years for a crime she insists she didn't commit. We don't actually find out what the circumstances of the crime are until the very last chapters of the book. Besides Allie's daughter, Caroline, I was left wondering for most of the book what motivated the characters. Emma's character is dark and a little sadistic but I had hard time accepting the motivation for her actions. This is the same for Sheriff Gaines. There were chapters where action took place "off-screen"-meaning it wasn't told in the story but then the following chapter was a response by another character for that action. This left me wanting ... to know what happened ... to know why it happened ... to know MORE.

There were several secondary characters brought into the story:

Allie and Emma's parents-who offered me little reason to sympathize with them. They face the hardship of their daughter being convicted of murder but upon her release they stop just short of compassion. Their father had to sell his vet clinic and it's mentioned several times and even offers an illusion as to maybe why ... but still no motivation revealed.

Ben (Allie's one-time fiance)-His purpose in the book ... I still don't know.

Natalie and Russell-maybe the only redeeming secondary (and possibly primary) characters that I truly enjoyed. Their purpose in the book is clear and I was drawn most to their story.

Ms. McNeill tells a good story with good writing and it was an easy book to get through but I did miss out a few key elements that I believe make a story great. I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes a good whydunit-because this story is full of hooks that keep you guessing why something happened. There wasn't a strong faith element, God is only mentioned a handful of times but I didn't find that distracting and thought it was a realistic inclusion of belief. There is some sexual innuendo and mild violence description leaving me to recommend this book for those 16+. 

Overall, I believe this is a good book to add to your beach bag this summer ... just rememeber to reapply sunscreen every couple of chapters! You can purchase a copy of Sister Dear to add to your summer reading list here.

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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