‘I did something terrible, Grace. I hope you can forgive me.’
Grace, our heroine, is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her best friend Charlie. Having disappeared from Grace’s life for six years, on the very day of their reunion, Charlie dies. She never got the chance to tell Grace what it was that she had been sorry for all those years ago.
Hoping that the answer lies in a secret memory box that they had buried as children, Grace turns to the letter that Charlie wrote and locked away inside. But it doesn’t provide the closure that she hoped it would and instead Grace determines to do the one thing that Charlie wanted. The one thing, as far as Grace knew, she never managed to achieve. Find Charlie’s estranged father.
An advert on Facebook leads Grace to an unexpected connection to Charlie’s father. An unknown half-sister, Anna. She looks like Charlie and is so keen to learn about her extended family, Grace so keen to recapture the friendship she lost, that she welcomes Anna into her life with open arms and an open heart.
But something, or someone, is haunting Grace. A dark figure, an unknown car, continually following her. Her thoughts are cast back to a series of hate letters she received at school, threats, trying to force her to leave town. When a series of very serious incidents starts to cloud Grace’s life she has to question whether her secret hater has returned to finish the job they started?
‘The Sister’ is a very well-crafted psychological tale. You have a heroine whose life is dominated by the emptiness she feels at the loss of her friend. The way in which Jensen depicts her grief is truly believable and well observed, tenderly handled and yet not dismissing the destructive impact this level of grief has on personal lives, both Grace’s and that of her partner Dan. It is the depth of this grief which acts as one of the catalysts which drive the main action in the book.
It is hard to say too much about the story without giving away the twists in the plot, although I would say that from very early on readers will be suspicious of certain characters, of what they are hiding, and they will not be surprised by most of the revelations that follow. That said, the book still manages to serve up a number of surprises, skilfully written and hidden in the text so well you will kick yourself when you finally twig what happened and wonder how you didn’t see it before.
The pace of the book is variable, slow and tender in the moments when you are exploring Grace’s grief and yet fast and thrilling when Grace’s life is in true danger. I think people will like Grace. She is a sympathetic character, her life dominated by a series of tragedies, one of which is hinted at and yet not revealed until about two thirds of the way through the book. It is not as shocking as you may have expected, but all the more believable because of it. To a child’s mind, the tragedy which unfolds will be far more devastating that most adult minds can comprehend, and this reflects well in the shaping of Grace’s character.
I really enjoyed this book. It kept me hooked all the way through and I completed it in a day. The characters are really well written and the prose delightfully descriptive. I really got a feel for the tiny village-come-town setting and the kind of life Grace and Dan had built for themselves. It is very hard for me to believe this was a debut novel. Jensen has done a great job in creating thrilling and yet emotional read. Even the antagonist’s story leaves you with a sense of empathy for their situation, especially when you learn of what it is that set in motion this chain of events. It’s not often I feel anything for the bad guy.
Thanks to Net Galley and Publishers BookOuture for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
A fantastic debut. 5 stars.
The Sister is available for order here: