Mary Hogan’s powerful and poignant debut novel about two sisters—opposites in every way—plus their mother and the secrets and lies that define them all.
One family, two sisters, a lifetime of secrets . . .
The third child in a family that wanted only two, Muriel Sullivant has always been an outsider. Short, dark-haired and round, she worships her beautiful blonde sister, Pia, and envies the close bond she shares with their mother, Lidia. Growing up in their shadow, Muriel believes that if she keeps all their secrets—and she knows plenty, outsiders always do—they will love her, too.
But that was a long time ago. Now an adult, Muriel has accepted the disappointments in her life. With her fourth-floor walk-up apartment and entry-level New York City job, she never will measure up to Pia and her wealthy husband, their daughter, and their suburban Connecticut dream home. Muriel would like nothing better than to avoid her judgmental family altogether. One thing she does quite well.
Until the day Pia shows up to visit and share devastating news that Muriel knows she cannot tell—a secret that will force her to come to terms with the past and help her see her life and her family in unexpected new ways.
Two Sisters a novel of secrets, a family broken and the absence of love, a story of loss and letting go. A portrait of a muted dysfunctional family and the end results.
I found this story emotionally heavy. It breaks down a family and the division it causes one member more than others – Muriel. A few surprises added to the narrative. Hogan did a wonderful job introducing us to the family and it’s members. The numerous issues were slowly revealed with emotional build up felt by the reader. Muriel is the centerpiece of this story, sadly she suffers the brunt of her family’s troubles. The secrets, deception running amok in this family really took a toll on all the members, again Muriel felt the biggest blow.
Three main characters drive the story. Lidia – mother, this woman is a piece of work. Favoring Pia, not involved at all with her son Logan, and undeniable resentment and hostility openly demonstrated and felt by Muriel – the third child and an unwelcome surprise. Pia – you feel for her, terminal cancer, she regrets her treatment towards Muriel, as a reader you also note she is a product of her mother’s influence. You find yourself excusing her but still harboring bitterness due to her affronts towards her sister. Muriel is a compelling character. The story basically revolves around her. She never comes across as a victim, whiney or plays the pity card. You find Muriel acutely aware of her resented place in the family and she always holds hope her mother will love her at some point. Her wounds are deep, and you know the treatment or lack of treatment has left numerous scars deeper than we realize. Muriel is a good hearted person, unbelievably strong, has a tight grip on reality and retains her dignity and turns the other cheek in the face of those unkind to her. Undoubtedly you will fall in love with Muriel and question Lidia’s cruel and disgusting actions towards her.
I have mixed feelings with the conclusion. I understand where Hogan was going and in a way it makes sense. I interpreted the ending to my liking simply because Hogan allowed enough leeway for ambiguity. In my eyes the ultimate ending was finalized with my imagination which is wonderful.
A dramatic story of family and secrets resulting in deep wounds and loss. Affecting story proving plenty of questions as well as discussions.