I know it’s been a long (long, long, long) time since I’ve posted, but I recently finished this fantastic book and knew I had to post with a review.
I just read Sister by A. Manette Ansay, and enjoyed every page. The main character, Abigail, is expecting her first baby and is sick of her mother’s entreaties to baptize the baby in the Catholic faith. Abbigail remembers growing up in Wisconsin in a small and exclusively Catholic town. The book alternates between memories of the past and scenes from the future, in which she seems passive, almost stuck, waiting to know what to do.
Most of Abbigail’s memories center around her father and brother. Her younger brother Sam had been her best friend, but as they started to grow up, her father tried to make Sam into a man. He forced Sam to drink beer, use tools to build things, and discouraged him from ‘girl’ activities like music, housework, and being creative. Sam seemed to get further and further away from Abbigail, who retreated into the Church and her piano playing. Abbigail focuses on the gender roles that were forced upon her and her brother and the way that they affected their upbringing.
From the beginning, we learn that Abbigail’s father drove Sam into running away from home when he was seventeen. Perhaps he struggled too hard to be the man his father wanted him to be, or just got caught up with the wrong crowd along the way. He was suspected of assaulting a local older woman in their church community, but never returned and was eventually given up for dead. Abbigail’s mom refused to accept the possibility of Sam’s death and never moved from the house, even when Abbigail’s father moved down south. Abbigail started a new life on the east coast and left the Catholic church, causing her grandma to disown her and her mother to call relentlessly to beg her to return to her faith. Abbigail’s mom tries to persuade Abbigail to name her new baby Sam and to baptize him, seemingly to give the run-away Sam a new life and new start.
Abbigail eventually takes a trip to visit her father and put up signs with Sam’s face on them, even though enough time had passed that the likelihood of finding him was almost nothing. Then, a discovery is made, and she and her family must come to terms with the truth about Sam. The books ends with a conversation between Abigail and her mother as they discuss what it means to find grace.
Ansay’s writing is beautiful, and my summary probably didn’t do the book justice since I am out of practice blogging about what I read. But the book is full of description, emotion, and passion, and drives you forward to learn more about Abigail’s story. Although at times I was frustrated with adult-Abbigail for being so passive, the memories she delved through helped me understand her character and why she acted that way. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes stories about families and the trials they go through, or anyone who appreciates well-crafted writing.