Review: The Silent Sister; Diane Chamberlain

Well-written and attention-grabbing (3.5 stars)

Source- review copy

Due for publication by St Martin’s Press on 7th October.

I read the Kindle edition.  The hardcover is 352 pages.

A Diane Chamberlain novel is always a treat. I really look forward to her books which are always a compelling blend of family drama, secrets and betrayal.  It’s been fun for me to go through and read her back catalogue and now I’m catching up on her newer releases.  For me, Chamberlain’s style of work is somewhat like Jodi Picoult or Heather Gudenkauf- contemporary fiction with some deeper, thought-provoking themes- so without hesitation I would recommend her books to fans of both of those authors.

Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager.  Now, over twenty years later, following the death of her father, she is cleaning out his house when she finds evidence that contradicts this belief.  Lisa is alive and living under a new identity.   As Riley works to uncover the truth and trace her estranged sister, her discoveries as to why she ran away will question everything she thought she knew about her family…

I must admit that I found this book took a while to get going. It started off so, so, slowly, which whilst it built up a degree of intrigue and suspense, was somewhat frustrating. I also felt that there was a real aspect of ‘tell’ and not ‘show’ at the start, which is not usually the case with this author. It was as if she felt the reader would not ‘get’ some of the hints that she was dropping about certain characters or situations and felt as if the point needed labouring somewhat.  I prefer to use my imagination and it seemed at the start of this book that it wasn’t really required. Still, once we were fully introduced to all of the main players in the story, the tension kicked in and the pace picked up and the plot flowed much more smoothly.  The writing and descriptions of the small town and its inhabitants were beautifully done and the level of detail imparted about Lisa’s actions was just enough without elaborating ‘too much.’ I got a sense of her actions and undoubtedly how they could still resonate even years later.

Character-wise, Chamberlain introduces some really interesting protagonists in this book. I think my favourite character was probably Lisa, and for me the strongest parts of the novel were those that filled in the blanks about her life. You get to know the ‘real’ Lisa throughout the course of the story and understand everything that she has been through. I also liked meeting Danny, Lisa and Riley’s brother- a complex and very flawed individual. The impact that Lisa’s decisions have had on his life were conveyed very well but I feel that this could have been made more of within the storyline.

I have to say that for someone who had their entire world turned upside down through the course of the novel, Riley seemed to handle things remarkable calmly. She was almost blasé at times, in fact! Whether or not she was still in shock, to me her behaviour and attitude just didn’t feel entirely believable. I didn’t connect with Riley much to be honest- she just seemed like such a people pleaser and was determined to ‘fix’ everyone, when deep down she was probably someone who needed fixing herself most of all.

In terms of the secondary characters, I found myself rather like Riley- questioning their motives and as to who to trust! It seems as if everyone in this book is hiding something or may know something and I began to feel as suspicious as she did. Can you imagine though, finding out that everything you thought you knew about yourself is a lie? That the people you loved and trusted weren’t all that they seemed? The thought of that is something of a nightmare for anyone and I do think the author pulled off the notion of that particularly well.  I also found myself feeling genuinely sorry for Lisa and her situation, though I sensed what was coming and as to the secrets that she had been hiding and the reasons why.

I was torn between giving this book 3.5 stars or 4.  Though it was a novel that admittedly didn’t offer too many surprises, it was pacey and well-written and managed to hold my attention. That being said, it certainly isn’t my favourite or even the strongest Diane Chamberlain book to date. If you are new to Chamberlain’s work, it’s probably not advisable to start here- try The Midwife’s Confession or perhaps Necessary Lies instead.

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