Title: The Sister’s Gift
Author: Barbara Hannay
Published: August 4th 2020
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
The heartwarming new family drama by the bestselling author of Meet Me in Venice.
Two sisters, one baby and the best of intentions…
As a vibrant young woman with a lifetime of possibilities ahead of her, Freya grants her sister, Pearl, the ultimate gift of motherhood. But this comes at a hefty price – an unexpected rift in her family and the loss of the man she loves.
Decades later, Freya is divorced, childless and homeless, at rock bottom after losing everything she’s worked for. When her estranged niece, Billie, offers sanctuary, managing the family restaurant on beautiful Magnetic Island, Freya can hardly refuse.
Billie has never understood the tension between her mother and her aunt and now, with a newly broken heart, she is nursing a family secret of her own. All three women come together under the tropical Queensland skies, but can they let go of past regrets, or will old tensions tear them further apart?
By an award-winning, bestselling author, this is a moving and inspiring novel set in a stunning location about choices and consequences and the redemptive power of love.
‘Freya knew she’d been impulsive, but when she’d been hit by her wonderful idea, she’d been fired with an almost holy zeal. She’d been so aglow with self-righteousness, with sisterly love and the magnificence of such a wonderfully generous mission that she’d dived straight in.’
The Sister’s Gift is a story of sisterhood, motherhood, parenting, relationships, domestic relations, personal strains, life choices and secrets. Set against the magnificent backdrop of Magnetic Island in Queensland, Barbara’s Hannay’s latest offering in the contemporary life literature genre is relatable, engaging and intriguing. The Sister’s Gift represents a wonderful addition to the Barbara Hannay collection.
Pearl and Freya are sisters. The bond between these two sisters is forever changed by one ultimate act of self-sacrifice. When Freya gives her sister Pearl what she so desperately desires, it should unite the sisters. Instead, this selfless act tears apart a relationship and creates a wound so deep, that it will take a miracle to ever overcome this estrangement. Moving forward in time, we learn that the tides have changed over the years for the two sisters. Freya finds herself in a difficult position. With a divorce, no family and the loss of her home, Freya feels she has drawn the short straw. When family reaches out to Freya, in the form of her niece Billie, Freya knows she must bury the hatchet and accept this much needed family support. While Billie works to understand why her mother and aunt are so estranged, many secrets and revelations come to light. Some of these are long held secrets, while others are fresh. What is clear is that all three women need each other more than ever. Will Freya, Pearl and Billie be able to unite in their shared grievances?
A new Barbara Hannay title is always a must read. I consider myself a long standing fan of Barbara Hannay’s work. Over the years I have enjoyed Hannay’s work in the rural romance genre, the Australian historical fiction category and the life literature area. The Sister’s Gift is a very good example of a solid Australian based contemporary fiction novel and it comes with a hint of romance and a dash of intrigue. All these elements seemed to compound together positively to ensure that The Sister’s Gift is both highly readable and connective.
The Sister’s Gift is a novel defined by a shared style of narration. The events of the book unfold via two main perspectives. The first is Freya, one of the sister figures of this tale. Freya is also the sister that makes a huge sacrifice for her sibling. The second voice of this tale comes in the form of Billie, Freya’s niece. Both of these women offset the other very well and it is easy to fall into the step of both women’s experiences, along with the support cast. I did find I clicked slightly more to Freya, but this may be due to my age. I found I was able to sympathise readily with Freya’s current status. I felt incredibly sorry for Freya in many instances and it was good to see the strength in her character as the book progressed. The reader really feels for Freya and hopes that she will rise above her hardship and triumph. I also admired Freya greatly for making such a big and life changing decision for her sister. When another medical emergency arises Freya is ready and open yet again to support her sister in her time of need. Hannay does an excellent job of teasing out the inner issues and the emotions that are at stake when a family is placed under duress.
Within Billie, the young character of this tale’s storyline, we are presented with a number of harder hitting themes that took me a little by surprise. I did assume The Sister’s Gift was going to be a light and breezy tale. It is in some respects, but in other areas there is a serious interrogation of issues such as abuse, assault, crime, parenting choices, infertility, adoption, past relationships, divorce, health issues and loss. Hannay’s treatment of these themes is tinged with sensitivity, insight and understanding. I appreciated the tone Hannay took with this novel, it wasn’t sentimental. I felt The Sister’s Gift was emotional in the right places, realistic and wholly engaging.
I feel it would remiss of me not to mention the picture postcard setting of The Sister’s Gift. Set mainly on Queensland’s majestic Magnetic Island, this is my first experience of this appealing locale. Thanks to Barbara Hannay’s novel I have added this location to my list of must see destinations once travel restrictions ease. I can’t wait to experience all Magnetic Island has to offer. The stunning and vivid descriptions of this island retreat off Queensland was just so alluring, I felt like a day tripper to the island while reading The Sister’s Gift. What a wonderful armchair travel experience this novel offered!
With a number of heart rendering moments, divisive scenarios, life affirming situations, acts of redemption and togetherness consuming the latter parts of The Sister’s Gift, it was an absorbing pathway to the conclusion of this novel. I felt conflicted, saddened and enriched by the experience of immersing myself in the lives of the characters in The Sister’s Gift. Barbara Hannay’s new novel certainly has plenty to offer readers who gravitate towards good quality life literature titles.
The Sister’s Gift by Barbara Hannay was published on 4th August 2020 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Sister’s Gift, Barbara Hannay, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
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