Wednesday, May 28, 2014

REVIEW: The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller

An absorbing, highly entertaining novel about family secrets, The Never Never Sisters introduces you to the strong-willed and big-hearted Reinhardt women, as they reunite one summer in New York. Gifted storyteller L. Alison Heller has written another witty and moving page-turner that will captivate readers and keep them guessing right up until the satisfying end.

Sometimes you just need to get away…

Marriage counselor Paige Reinhardt is counting down the days to summer, eager to reconnect with her workaholic husband at their cozy rental cottage in the Hamptons. But soon a mysterious crisis at Dave’s work ruins their getaway plans. Paige is still figuring out how to handle the unexplained chill in her marriage when her troubled sister suddenly returns after a two-decade silence. Now, instead of enjoying the lazy summer days along the ocean, Paige is navigating the rocky waters of a forgotten bond with her sister in the sweltering city heat.

As she attempts to dig deeper into Dave’s work troubles and some long-held family secrets, Paige is shocked to discover how little she knows about the people closest to her. This summer, the self-proclaimed relationship expert will grapple with her biggest challenge yet: Is it worth risking your most precious relationships in order to find yourself?


I expected the focus to be a lot more on family, when I began The Never Never Sisters. More specifically, I expected the entire narrative to weave it's way through a relationship between two sisters. Obviously, right? The story line within this book was, without a doubt, endearing, and entertaining, but had little to do with the main character, and her sister. I felt like I wandered into the wrong book, but this is me unnecessarily complaining, because I really did enjoy the entirety of this novel.

Paige Reinhardt is the picture of stability, in her job, her marriage, and her family life. We meet Paige at the initial stirrings of change. What she hoped would be a quiet, relaxing summer, turns into, you guessed it, the exact opposite. Her husband has been suspended from work, seemingly out of the blue. Her estranged, and ex-addict sister, Sloane, has magically reemerged, after being gone for 20 years. And her mother, who has been a constant source of comfort, and support for Paige, is increasingly becoming a stranger. With her life thrown into disarray, Paige is forced to act out of character, and discover things about the most important people in her life, that will have her completely questioning her own life choices.

The Never Never Sisters was a contemporary, with an unexpected splash of mystery. To be honest, the mystery became the most interesting part for me. What was Sloane's husband hiding? And how soon would she figure it out? Nothing is revealed until the end, naturally. So I was left with the other plot lines to hold me over. As I mentioned before, I was hardly expecting Paige's sister to play such a small role. When she was introduced, I was so sure that her presence would take over the book, that the two-decade long separation would spur a whole slew of memories, and back stories, and heart-wrenching obstacles to overcome, and make peace with. I realized I was wrong when Sloane's existence quickly took a back seat in the grand scheme of things. Sure, she was a catalyst for many *GASP!* moments, but she felt more like the unloved, supporting, side-kick character, than the other "sister" mentioned in the title. I'm not sure if it was the author's intention to downplay Sloane's role, but I was disappointed that her character wasn't expanded on.

What I thoroughly enjoyed, however, was the slowly unfurling conundrum that was Paige's marriage. I completely appreciated the irony that Heller sprinkled over that entire area. Paige was a marriage counselor by profession, but it was a useless title when it came to her own, personal life. She tended to take her practice home with her, and I loved her constant rationalizations when it came to arguments with her husband-her insistence on understanding where HE was coming from. No lie, I took notes, to be put to the test in my OWN relationship! I thought the author did a fantastic job of creating "normal," of making me fall for characters that had no business being liked. There were some moments when one voice sounded dangerously similar to another, namely in the "journal entries" by Paige's mother-they just weren't candid enough, and sounded way too similar to the ongoing story line. However, if I had to base my rating of this book on the dynamic between Paige and Dave alone, it's a solid 4.5 stars. It was like crack cocaine, I was DYING to know the truth behind Dave's actions.

Yes, The Never Never Sisters was about family, and (eventual) forgiveness, but if you're going into this story with hopes of witnessing some profound, epiphany-inducing moments of clarity, you won't find it in here. There WERE heart-warming moments, but the real pleasure was in watching Paige come into her own, and unearth some harsh realities. A one-sitting kind of book, perfect for the beach, or backyard lounge chair reading.

Recommended for fans of: Barbara Delinsky, Elin Hilderbrand, Emily Giffin, Kristen Hannah, Romance, Women's Fiction, 'Chick-Lit', Contemporary.



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