Friday, January 17, 2020

Amy Hatvany - The Language of Sisters

Ten years ago, Nicole Hunter left her troubled home behind her, unable to cope with the demands of a life with her disabled sister, Jenny. Though her search for happiness—both in career and in love—has fallen short of her dreams, Nicole pretends that all is well. Then a shattering event turns her world upside down, and suddenly, she is back in her hometown, caring for her pregnant sister and trying to heal her embattled relationship with her mother.
Reunited with her family and forced to confront the guilt that haunts her, Nicole finally has the chance to be the sister she always wished she’d been. And when she is faced with the most difficult choice of her life, Nicole rediscovers the beauty of sisterhood—and receives a special gift that will change her life forever.

Comment: This is the second book by this author I read. I liked the experience of reading the other one by her I have and when I saw this one on sale in one of the book fairs I usually attend annually, I didn't think twice.

In this book we have the story of two sisters, one of them, Nicole, left home to be far from the problems in her house but she has always felt stuck to something in her past.
The other sister is Jenny and she has a disease that robbed her of her motor and mental skills which made her mother decide to put her in an institute that caters to women with similar conditions.
The story begins when Nicole, geographically and mentally far away, receives a phone call telling her her sister had been raped at the institute and she is now pregnant. Nicole then leaves her life as a baker - she had also given up on her psychologist profession - to head back home and deal with the situation, since their mother is tired and wants to keep Jenny the the same institute and their father is out of the picture.
Going back home, Nicole is ready to do what is necessary to help Jenny, even it that means take care of her sister on her own. Will Nicole be ready for what that entails?

I thought this book would focus on the way Nicole would deal with taking care of her sister Jenny and how that situation would affect her perspective on how people like Jenny - not perfect in the eyes of society - are usually treated. Although we do have this notion discussed somehow, the biggest part of the novel's purpose was to showcase Nicole's feelings, position in life, psychological status, her journey through guilt and duty rather than how Jenny was doing with what happened to her and what Nicole did to help Jenny.

This means that, seen with a certain perspective, Nicole does come across as being inflexible, too hard on herself and others and slightly irritating. I don't think this bothered me much because I've worked with someone who had lost skills, although not with the same disease fictional Jenny has. I know it can be difficult and frustrating and sometimes it's hard to "disconnect" from that to just be ourselves in a new context.
Still, this doesn't excuse the fact Nicole acts as if she's the one who knows best, who will be the key to "transform" Jenny. Not to cure her, obviously, but to be the person with whom Jenny will relax with and would feel happy to be near.
Being like this also affects her relationship with others, namely with her mother, from whom Nicole has always held something that still haunts her.

Portuguese edition
It was good to see how Nicole improved throughout the novel, how she started to talk about and deal with some of the things she feels guilty of, including leaving her family to pursue stability. But Nicole is one of those people who can't forget and I liked how we got to see the steps she took to change and find inner peace while being closer to her sister.
I'd say the problem is that, despite how natural or expectant this situation might have been, the way it happened seemed to follow a very linear pattern: first deal with this, then that, then the other so things were being dealt with but it was sort of forced in the reader's face how the process happened. I wish it had been made to look more spontaneous on Nicole's part.

There are some social and technical issues mentioned related to how caring facilities/institutions operate in regards to people with deficiencies like Jenny's. That should grab anyone's attention and the author has done a good job in giving readers a perspective but inserted in the fictional tale, it felt like a task to be done, rather than a real necessity of the novel. After ll, the focus is on Nicole and not really on Jenny and her problems.

Another interesting element was how Nicole re-discovered a previous friendship and how much help that was to her, especially when things got difficult. There is also a romance to let the reader wonder what will happen to Nicole and her choices and although part of me liked this element, it could have been done a little better too. 
Still, the book ends on a positive note and I think the psychological journey Nicole went through helped her a lot, not only in reconnecting with her sister and mother, but in how she has always felt about her father and her other relationships.

This was an easy book to go through, simple accessible writing, interesting theme and development but yes, the main character could have been a little more approachable at times.
I'll keep on reading this author's work...
Grade: 7/10

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