Hi, bookish friends! As I mentioned in my recent Friday Favorites post, I’ve been reading more mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. I love a good “who-dun-it” story, and I enjoy the insights it brings us into the characters. So today I wanted to share a new Book Notes on my latest read!
I recently finished The Winter Sister by Megan Collins. This debut novel centers on the sudden death of a teen girl, and the fallout that lingers for her family and loved ones years later. Here’s a description:
Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.
In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.
As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.
The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we know the people we love most?
This book is chock full of family drama, secrets, and regrets. It begins with the fateful night during the sisters’ teen years when Persephone goes missing. A few days later, her body is discovered.
Through this storyline we are introduced to an older sister who flaunted the rules; her boyfriend who had acted suspiciously; a neglectful and distant, but grieving, mother; and Sylvie, the younger sister who had a big secret of her own.
We then move forward to Sylvie as an adult, when her aunt (who had stepped in and cared for her after the tragedy) calls Sylvie home to help care for her cancer-stricken mother. When Sylvie returns to her hometown and her childhood house, it brings back all the pain and turmoil of Persephone’s tragedy. As she encounters figures from her past (including Ben, her sister’s former boyfriend who was suspected but never charged in her death), she starts asking questions and seeing other sides of the story… leading to answers she never saw coming.
Sylvie is not an unreliable narrator… we’re made privy to her thoughts and secrets early on in the story. The happenings are revealed to us as she learns them. There are many things, we discover, that she didn’t know as a teenager and that were not as they seemed.
I found this to be an incredible debut novel. As I’ve mentioned, I’m just getting back into suspense and thrillers, and I really enjoyed this one that I discovered through #Bookstagram and the Book of the Month club. Collins weaves a tale that keeps you wanting to find answers, and features characters that are complex and flawed.
I always enjoy reading other reviews of the titles that I feature… it’s interesting to see all the different opinions. Most of the reviews of this were really positive, and for good reason. Among just a few readers who rated the book lower, it seemed to be for two reasons.
First, it seems there have been a lot of domestic suspense novels coming out recently, and some reviewers felt that sub-genre and the “adult comes home to reckon with her past and discovers secrets” storyline had been overdone. I can’t speak to that because I haven’t read a lot of them, but even so… it’s a good storyline, and Collins has written it very well.
The other thing some reviewers have expressed is that the mother is very unlikable. I do agree with that assessment. However, for me it worked within the storyline. It’s a subplot of its own to learn why the mother is so detached, why her girls were treated so differently, and what caused her dark days. That doesn’t mean I related to the mother at all… in fact, I was incredulous at some of her thoughts, feelings, and actions.
This family was dark and dysfunctional. The novel is a compelling portrait of how family secrets cause unseen ripple effects through generations.
I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a reveal at the heart of the plot that shifts the narrative. Early in the novel, I wondered about this particular piece of information, but then thought, no, that’s probably not where it’s going. Readers, that’s where it went! Once that piece fell into place, the rest of the story clicked for me. I’ve deliberately not spoken of most of the characters in the novel… I will say that, as in any good thriller, the people at the heart of the story are often not as they first appear.
This novel gets four and a half stars from me, and I will definitely add Megan Collins’ future releases to my list. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good domestic suspense, or appreciates a study in complex family (especially mother-daughter) relationships.
Find “The Winter Sister” at:
What do you think, friends? Do you love a good suspense or thriller? Will you be adding this one to your list? If you’ve already read this, come let me know what you thought. Enjoy your week… happy reading!!
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