Author: Jane Corry
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Blood Sisters by Jane Corry takes us into the lives of two little girls, bound by blood, both the blood of kinship as well as that of spilled blood, from evil visited upon them in the past.
The prologue gives us a hint of innocence, unsuspecting, and how it is destroyed with horrible consequences.
In Part 1, we are in 2016. Alison Baker runs a stained glass making course at a local college. She is also suffering from some past tragedy and cuts herself to get away from the pain.
She signs up to teach art to prisoners in an open prison. But danger, it seems, is lurking within the prison. She receives threatening notes. At first Alison is afraid, but then she begins to settle down in the prison, seemingly lulled to the danger lurking within.
The same tragedy has seen the institutionalization of Kitty, Alison’s half-sister. Kitty has lost control of her memories and is unable to give voice to her thoughts. She is also wheelchair bound for life.
Alison believes that she caused the death of Vanessa, Kitty’s best friend in school, and the maiming of Kitty. Only Kitty knows the truth, but she is incapable of telling anyone.
But all along someone is watching them both, someone who means to punish and destroy them both.
The book is written in the first-person present tense point of view of Alison and the third person past tense point of view of Kitty. Part I sees their alternating twin narratives start in September 2016 and go on till January 2017.
In Part II, we get a flash of 2001. We are led back to 2017, to the difficulties that Alison is facing, as a prelude to what happened back in April 2001 to Ali, as she was known then. At this point, the narratives begin to alternate with Alison in the present day and Ali in 2001. I was nearly missing Kitty’s POV when Part III began, and Kitty was back.
Both girls were extremely well drawn, thanks to the manner in which the author built them up.
I liked Kitty. Even though no one would give her credit for it, she notices things like A mouth that smiled. Eyes that didn’t.
The accident has damaged her brain, specifically her memories, though she still retains her self-centredness, the basic nature which had been fueled by goading on the part of her best friend, Vanessa. Despite the special needs she now has, she manages to impress us with her personality.
The accident has also affected her motor coordination, her ability to walk and her speech. The words are clear in her head, but no one can understand them. When she tries to nod her head in response to a question, it comes out as a shake.
We can see the disconnect between her thoughts and the interpretation of her caregivers and the other other inmates. Only Johnny, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome, and with who she gets into a physical relationship, clearly understands what she is trying to say as well as if she had actually said it.
At first, I thought I liked Alison, but then I realized that while I didn’t like Kitty at all, Alison wasn’t as clean as I’d thought she was. She was capable of deception, lying, to save herself.
At heart, both sisters were deeply flawed, subject to human emotions like jealousy, anger, rage. But they did seek to redeem themselves, and that was good.
The two are half-sisters, with a seven-year age gap. While they look physically similar, they have completely different personalities. Kitty is always hostile to Alison, and their sibling rivalry takes a turn for the worse as the book goes on.
As Alison says of the tumultuous relationship, It was like living with the school bully but never being able to swap classes.
Bit by bit, the author gives us a peek into what the sisters are really like. For instance, Alison’s reasons for hating to do portraits, You have to get into someone’s soul to make it really work. And I definitely don’t want to go there.
The book drew me in. It was unpredictable. I just didn’t know what was coming next. The revelations kept piling up.
I particularly appreciated the sensitivity with which the author described the inmates at the home. Not only Kitty, but Johnny, Margaret, Duncan and the others were all shown as real humans with real human needs. The fact that Kitty tended to lash out also becomes understandable when we get to know of her deep frustration emerging from her inability to make herself understood.
The only thing that struck a false note for me was the fact that Kitty’s memories started returning after she went into labour. It just seemed too pat and unreal.
Also, the manner in which Kitty’s final revelation came out appeared to be too rushed, as if the author having drawn out her story, was now anxious to bring it to a close.
After all the effort that had been put into establishing how spoiled Kitty was, it was hard to believe that she had any submerged filial feeling for Alison.
Overall, Blood Sisters had a theme of redemption, of opportunities to right the wrong choices made in the past, of secrets and lies that hurt those we seek to protect.
Above all, it spoke of the complexity of the relationships between sisters, the admiration and love, often mixed with jealousy and loathing.
The author puts it best when she says, Love is close to hate when it comes to sisters. You’re as close as two humans can be. You came from the same womb. The same background. Even if you’re poles apart, mentally. That’s why it hurts so much when your sister is unkind. It’s as though part of you is turning against yourself.
(I received an ARC from First to Read).