Title: Rival Sisters
Author: Louise Guy
Published: August 1st 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 stars
Tragedy pushed them apart. Can troubled times bring them back together?
Hannah and Nat were teenagers when their mum died in a terrible accident. The pain of it tore them apart, creating a rift that they’ve never been able to bridge. Each is rarely able to understand or appreciate her sister’s perspective, each quick to be riled by the other.
Both women have been indelibly shaped by the tragedy. Hannah is controlling, desperate to protect her loved ones in a way she failed to do with her mum. Meanwhile, Nat is forever running from the ‘selfish daughter’ label that she was marked with after the accident.
Now secrets in both women’s lives threaten to bring them down. Help may be close at hand, but neither can see it. But with life falling apart and the truth is in short supply, can they finally see past their differences to the bond that could bring them together?
Sisters divided by loss and tragedy are the central concern of Louise Guy’s latest novel, Rival Sisters. Hidden truths, dark lies, fractured communication channels and blame circulates through the fourth domestic fiction title from Australian author Louise Guy.
Rival Sisters is the emotional journey of two sisters, Hannah and Nat, who were once very close as children but now they lead very separate lives. A deep tragedy has separated these sisters and the pain over losing their mother is too intense for the sisters to bear. Unable to overcome their grief, the sisters are now estranged. The differences in opinion and life situations also mean that the siblings are unable to connect. Each is quick to blame the other for this damaged relationship and for the loss of their mother. Hannah and Nat have both been impacted significantly by the loss of their mother. For Hannah, it is about dominance and control. While Nat faces her own challenges in breaking free from being labelled as the nasty sister. But the past is threatening to boil over into the present and both women must gain the upper hand over their downward spiraling lives. With lies, hard truths and life pressures mounting, it seems these sisters need each other more than they know.
Louise Guy is quite the champion in terms of life literature and domestic fiction stories. Rival Sisters is yet another down to earth tale of ordinary sisters trying to overcome general problems many of us have faced in life. I have really appreciated the realism and natural situations Louise Guy takes to her novels and she definitely injects these qualities into her latest round of contemporary fiction.
Rival Sisters closely examines a splintered family dynamic. A terrible tragedy from childhood cuts deep into the relationship between two once close sisters. We witness a barrage of emotions, pain, guilt, blame and separation from a defining life event. I think Guy does a good job of pulling apart this aspect of her novel. I also appreciated the clear presentation of these two very different sisters. Hannah and Nat were illuminated closely by the author. However, I will be utterly truthful and say I didn’t warm to either sister and my inability to connect to the leads did impair my full enjoyment of this novel. I had a hard time agreeing with the decisions and movements these two women made along the journey of this novel and they did infuriate me. The saving grace in this novel is the grandmother figure, what a beautiful soul this woman was and I am thankful for her presence.
Themes wise, Rival Sisters covers extensive ground and I could not fault this area of the novel. There is a rich and authentic investigation into relationships, marriage, sibling issues, grief, loss and tragedy. Guy also takes the opportunity to tie in a number of topical scenarios on gambling, addiction, blackmail, debt, financial pressures, adoption and online chat rooms. I did find the accompanying dialogue and everyday interactions between the characters in relation to these issues to be on point. However, I struggled with the online chat room conversations that were inserted within the overarching narrative, despite valuing the purpose of these episodes it seemed to break my attention away from the main events.
In the end, the relationship that has been so ruptured between sisters Hannah and Nat over the course of the novel is eventually repaired in quite unexpected circumstances. The characters do seem to grow and come full circle which was gratifying. The repair and restitution focus, along with the expressed life messages that are relayed towards the latter stages of the book made the journey worthwhile for the few days I spent in the company of Rival Sisters.
All in all, Rival Sisters offered an in touch and observant look at some rather complicated family relations.
Rival Sisters by Louise Guy was published on 1st August 2020 by Lake Union Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Rival Sisters, Louise Guy, visit here.
*I wish to thank Louise Guy for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Rival Sisters is book #102 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge