REVIEW: Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

In brief: Bill is lonely after his wife’s death. His daughter Sarah is trying to fill the void in her life. But their family is about to become much bigger in unexpected ways…

The good: Very interesting premise for the plot.

The not-so-good: I felt both Sarah and Emma were stereotypes at times of the bogan and rich ice queen.

Why I chose it: Many thanks to Hachette for the copy.

Year: 2018

Pages: 373 (ARC)

Publisher: Hachette

Setting: Perth, Western Australia and surrounds

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Sisters and Brothers is a story that is based on a very interesting premise – what if you had siblings or children that you didn’t know about? What if they suddenly started appearing in adulthood? How would everyone react? For Bill and his daughter Sarah, that’s exactly what happens in a relatively short time frame. The novel is the journey of what happens when secrets come to the surface and your family grows beyond what you had ever dreamed of.

Bill is a lovely old gentleman who is a bit bereft after his beloved wife dies. He’s about to undergo surgery and dotes on his daughter and her two grandchildren. Sarah is missing her mother deeply and has thrown herself into a number of jobs to try to keep busy and hide the increasing isolation she feels from her husband. Meanwhile, Emma is a nurse who finds out that she’s not her father’s biological daughter. Her parents tell her that they were so desperate for a child, her mother seduced the piano tuner…aka Bill. Emma is intrigued and sets about to find her biological father quickly. It’s a short lived shock for Bill, but Sarah doesn’t take it quite as well. Meanwhile, Adam is thinking about the father he never knew as he’s hoping to become a father himself. Michelle has been toying with the idea of finding her birth parents after a career change. You can see what’s coming next…

Sisters and Brothers for me was more about the journey rather than discovering who the parents were of the characters. Each character looking for their birth parents undertook it in a completely different way. I did feel sorry for poor Sarah the most though. Imagine being an only child and then finding out as an adult you have brothers and sisters! Sarah was quite a fragile character to me. Initially, I felt that she was portrayed as an ice queen and helicopter mother – all pretence and no substance. But as the story moved on, I felt she was revealed as more of an individual as she grew as a character and externalised her fears. Emma was also a bit of a bogan stereotype with Ugg boots in public, tattoos, living in Rockingham (colloquially pigeonholed as a ‘bogan’ suburb locally) and driving a 4WD. She does have a heart of gold and she did lose some of these descriptions as time went on. It just irked me initially. Adam was a sweetheart. A florist also with a heart of gold (must be related to Emma), his journey with his partner to foster children was beautiful. I’d be happy to read just about Adam! Michelle was a bit more distant and less detailed than the other siblings, perhaps because of the way she went about her journey. While her motivation to find her parents was clear, other things (like why she left her job to start a business and wanting children) weren’t as detailed to me compared to the others. And Bill. Obviously he was quite the ladies’ man in his youth! As the glue that held all these people to each other, he was the sweet, calm person you want him to be. I thought that plot twist that led him to being unable to express himself in his usual ways was clever (but obviously sad!). It meant that the reader and the other characters had to focus on their own reactions without his guidance.

I devoured Sisters and Brothers over a weekend. It a book that you need just one more chapter of as the plot moves at a fast clip and the reactions of the characters are heartfelt. Definitely a great one for a beach read.

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer is published by Hachette Australia. $29.99. Out now.

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